Sage Northcutt knows his previous fight was a mistake.
It wasn’t the first loss of his career. But in terms of results and injuries, it was by far the most devastating. After moving up to 185 pounds for the first time in his career, Northcutt saw his ONE Championship debut end in just 29 seconds when he was caught by a right hand from Cosmo Alexandre. The knockout left him with multiple facial injuries.
Since that fight in May 2019, the 24-year-old has spent much of his time recovering from surgery and staying in shape as he waits to be medically cleared for full-contact training. He’s also been held up by COVID-19 related gym lockdowns in his native Texas.
“I haven’t been given a timeline, and right now that doesn’t matter anyway, because there’s not even any gyms to train at because of all the COVID-19 stuff,” Northcutt told MMA Fighting. “I guess once that gets taken care of I can focus on that. I sure hope all this stuff clears up soon so that everybody can get back to training.”
Northcutt has worked with Team Alpha Male in California over the past few years, but he was in Texas when the coronavirus outbreak led to widespread restrictions affecting travel, business, and public gatherings. Although he feels healthy, he hasn’t been given any definitive timetable on returning to training, nor when he can book his next fight.
One thing he knows is that he’s definitely returning to 155 pounds, where he’s never lost in MMA. During his time with the UFC from 2015-2018, Northcutt compiled a 6-2 record – both of his losses were at welterweight.
He doesn’t expect there to be any issues with making 155 pounds (designated as featherweight in ONE), even with ONE having stricter rules when it comes to extreme weight cutting and rehydration.
“Fighting with the UFC, everybody’s trying to cut a bunch of weight,” Northcutt said. “For me, all my fights in the UFC, I was trying to eat a lot of food and trying to cut weight at the same time, because you go against guys that are cutting a bunch of weight. Everybody wants to try to be the biggest guy in the weight class.
“For ONE Championship, with the rule of hydration tests and stuff, and people not trying to cut the weight like that, I’m just gonna be walking around at my natural weight, dieting as I always do and eating clean and training harder than ever, so when it’s time for me to be able to fight, it should be pretty great because I walk around lean all the time.”
Following Northcutt’s loss to Alexandre, Northcutt’s coach Urijah Faber questioned whether the larger Alexandre adhered to ONE’s weight-cutting rules and sounded skeptical that fighters could resist the urge to game the system.
“Sage is such a faith-based guy and takes things as they’re said,” Faber said on The MMA Hour in May 2019. “Of course, everybody’s cutting weight. I was kind of trying to wrap my head around the thing, and you have to do a hydration test and they weigh you in a couple of days in a row, so it makes it really difficult. But I talked to multiple guys there that were cutting weight, and it is what it is.
“That wasn’t the main problem there. Cosmo’s an incredible fighter, seasoned Muay Thai kickboxer, 7-1 as a mixed martial artist. [He] just came across the ring and landed a nasty punch and ended it for Sage there.”
Asked if he thought Alexandre’s team found a way to cut an extreme amount of weight while still staying within ONE guidelines, Northcutt declined to speculate and instead put the onus on himself for jumping up to middleweight in the first place.
“I’m not too sure what to say about Cosmo, but for me, I made the mistake of going to 185 pounds,” Northcutt said. “That weight class is too big for me. You can ask anybody that was there with me, I was drinking gallons of water and was still under the weight for the 185-pound weight cutoff. Obviously, that weight class is too big for me and not the right weight class for me.
“If you look back at all my fights, the most dominant I’ve been is at 155 pounds. Undefeated at that weight class, and several of my fights I was still in school when I was doing it too. Now I have more of a skill set, that’ll be a better weight class for me. I’ll be faster, quicker, whatever goes on. It will be much more dominant for me at that weight class.”