If you missed the UFC 192 prelims, you’ve likely found yourself out of the loop regarding all of the Sage Northcutt madness.
The 19-year-old fighter is wallowing in charisma after only six professional bouts and a pretty amazing post-fight front flip. It also doesn’t hurt that he looks like a lead singer from a ’90s boy band.
The luminous aura surrounding Northcutt can’t be denied.
The “it” factor meter broke as Paige VanZant’s male doppelganger stepped through the curtains at the Toyota Center in Houston last weekend for his UFC debut against Francisco Trevino. Houston showered the Texas native with a hero’s welcome. You would have thought Northcutt was a UFC champion based on the response alone.
As soon as the fight started, any misguided assumptions about Northcutt’s spikey bleach blonde hair and pretty boy looks were eradicated instantly. Northcutt showed poise well beyond his years as he walked Trevino down and obliterated him with a flurry of strikes. “Super” Sage went full on Super Saiyan in the octagon and stopped Trevino in 57 seconds.
After the fight, he flashed a pristine smile, pulled off a flawless standing front flip and waved to the camera. And just like that — Sage Northcutt became a star.
UFC President Dana White admittedly wasn’t a believer at first. During an episode of his web series, Looking for a Fight, White traveled to Lake Charles to scout potential prospects at Legacy Fighting Championship 42. Northcutt, who was 3-0 at the time, was competing against Gage Duhon.
When scouting the fight, White chose Duhon to win. The UFC president joked that Northcutt was fighting professionally to pay for his tanning bed costs. His opinion obviously changed after witnessing Northcutt in action that night. The Karateka showed off a flashy side kick and good submission skills before finding an opening and latching on a rear-naked choke for the first round finish.
“I got to be honest with you. We were coming out here, and we were studying guys,” said White, when speaking with Northcutt after the fight. “I counted him out man, I had a picture of him and I said, ‘look at the pretty boy that thinks he wants to fight.’ That’s exactly what I said, and you shut us the hell up man.”
Northcutt continued to shut up critics by signing a UFC contract a year later and winning impressively in his debut. Earlier in the week on the Anik and Florian podcast show, former UFC contender Kenny Florian went as far as comparing the young fighter to MMA legend Georges St-Pierre:
“Talk about potential. Talk about dollar signs. This kid could be GSP times 10. When you look at the look and the way that he fights — the explosiveness. This kid, I think he got to the state championships after only a year of wrestling in high school. He was wrestling at Texas A&M only after a couple years of wrestling. He started wrestling very late. This kid is an athlete through and through. Just look at that flip.”
There is no questioning the rare athleticism of Northcutt. The guy looks like he jumped out of the pages of a comic book magazine. He’s a physical specimen at 155 pounds, and the vast majority of his peers seem to agree. (Warning: NSFW Language)
HOLY SHIT @sagenorthcutt
— Dana White (@danawhite) October 3, 2015
— Paige VanZant (@PaigeVanzantUFC) October 3, 2015
Well that didn't take long! But really? Side kick against the insane karate fighter?😏 that was a mistake
— Paul Felder (@felderpaul) October 3, 2015
Sage just did some video game-like flip-mctwist, and looked like he didn't even have to try. Practicing that mañana! #UFC192
— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) October 3, 2015
Sage the Ufc's new karate kid! #UFC192
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 3, 2015
Justin timberlake is a killer #hollisterinthebuilding
— Will Brooks (@illwillbrooks86) October 3, 2015
— Randa Markos (@randamma) October 3, 2015
Let the hype train roll smfh
— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) October 3, 2015
@sagenorthcutt is a super athlete for real for real
— Anthony Johnson (@Anthony_Rumble) October 3, 2015
There is no way to be sure of what the future holds for Northcutt. He could go the route of UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor and develop into a big star, or he could lose his next two fights and quietly fade into the background.
The only comparisons between Northcutt and McGregor are obviously charisma-based. McGregor was a far superior prospect technically than Northcutt, whose technique is still relatively raw. All we’ve seen is a 19-year-old who isn’t afraid to push the fight and get into wild standup exchanges.
Perhaps the best thing Northcutt has going for him is time. He is literally a babe in the sport, and the possibilities are endless. If he stays on course under the right tutelage, he has the potential to develop into an exceptional fighter for the UFC down the line.
The UFC appears to be onboard for the developmental process, as they’ve elected to move him along slowly. It doesn’t make any sense throwing him into the fire right away against the rest of the lightweight killers. You always polish a diamond before setting it in front of the glass case.
The UFC might have a diamond in Northcutt.