It's tough out there for a 19-year-old fighter.
Sage Northcutt suffered the first loss of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career this past weekend (Sat., Jan. 30, 2016) against Bryan Barberena at UFC on FOX 18 in Newark, New Jersey (video). Soon thereafter, all the critics were quick to hop on Twitter to discount his not-so-"Super" performance.
Which is confusing in itself, as the young star seems to be the poster boy for politeness, always greeting his elders with "sir" or "mister" in interviews.
Nevertheless, Sage stopped by The MMA Hour to talk about his disappointing loss and revealed that he was riddled with sickness in the weeks and days leading up to his fight. But being a trooper, he opted to stay on the card instead of bowing out.
"Well, first off, sorry if my voice sounds a little bit funny. I don't want to make excuses for my poor performance out there, but I actually had strep throat three times in the last four months. And then when I actually got down to New Jersey, I had been on multiple antibiotics. Then in New Jersey, two days before my fight, I had a real bad relapse of the strep throat and I had to go to the emergency clinic, or UFC had to take me. And then, Dr. D with the UFC had to write a prescription for me for more antibiotics and stuff like that. So really, I really couldn't explain how I felt out there. I felt really horrible. I obviously don't want to pull out of a fight, that's not good. I just had a hard time breathing out there. I really wasn't myself, so that wasn't the Sage you would normally see out there in the Octagon. Even after the first 30 seconds, a minute out there, I couldn't breath. I felt like my legs were cement. It just wasn't me out there. So, I know I'll be coming back better than ever and I'm still healing up from feeling sick. In a few days I'm going back to the doctor again to try and heal up from all of this."
"It wasn't panic, I felt very calm. The thing was, having the hard time breathing and having the mouth piece in, my energy level wasn't the level I would normally have. I fought as a 155'r, weighing 170 is what I weighed when I walked out there actually. That's what I weigh in at, so I got to eat breakfast before weigh ins. I didn't have my same strength. When he was on top of me, Having his shoulder on my throat, I know it wasn't a traditional head-and-arm choke from side control where you can apply the same kind of pressure, but having your jaw shut and trying to breath through your nose for this time during the fight, I was so congested that I couldn't even breathe standing up. That's why I wasn't able to move the same, kick the same. What I wanted to do, I wasn't able to actually act it out and do it because my body wasn't able to keep up. And it was like my heart was racing. It felt like breathing through a straw. So, even if it wasn't the best lock, I was having such a hard time breathing that it was just as tight as it might have been if I was in that position if I wasn't sick. If that makes sense."
Now, Northcutt will have to learn another lesson the hard way.
As legitimate as his health reason may be -- and it is, as he had to contact USADA prior to his fight to get clearance for the multiple prescriptions -- critics will latch on to these comments (as unfair as it may be) and chalk it up to a mere excuse.
There's just no way around it, right Fabricio?
His illness also explains why he opted to take the last-minute replacement fight at welterweight, as trying to cut down to lightweight with an already weak body would've been all kinds of terrible. In his team's thought process, they felt being able to eat more food in the lead up to the bout would've helped him recover.
But, as Northcutt revealed, no one foresaw a relapse just two days before fight night. Still, he did his best to put his best foot forward and act like everything was okay. And in hindsight, he says he still wouldn't have pulled out of the bout, as he says his job is to fight for UFC when the company needs him.
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Tommy Toe Hold: The unbreakable positivity of Sage Northcutt