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Midnight Mania! Dana White calls for B.J. Penn, Sage Northcutt to retire

UFC 237: Penn v Guida Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Retirement is very much a relevant topic in the modern world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Just last weekend, UFC Stockholm saw three men retire following stoppage losses. One of those men, Alexander Gustafsson, was still fairly young, just a single fight removed from a title shot. Looking at his record and age would seem to indicate that Gustafsson still has something left to give, but MMA is unforgiving. If one is halfway out the door, it’s best to quickly scramble all the way out before it slams shut on a finger.

A less hazy case is BJ Penn, the former Lightweight and Welterweight champion who recently made history with the longest losing streak in UFC history. It’s more than clear that Penn’s best days are behind him, and his health is at a larger risk.

In an interview with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, Dana White agreed.

“No, I want BJ to retire. I love BJ Penn. BJ Penn is one of the legends of the sport. This is a young man’s game. I gave him a lot of opportunities because he’s B.J. and because of the relationship that I’ve had with BJ. You know, his entire career and before that, but I can’t do that again.”

There’s no real controversy there, as it’s pretty unanimous that Penn has no business left inside the Octagon. More interesting is White’s remark that Sage Northcutt should retire as well at just 23 years of age. Transcription via MMAJunkie:

“I would really like to see Sage Northcutt retire,” White said. “I hope he does. (He’s a) good looking, charismatic kid, smart. He was an engineer, taking college to be an engineer. He’s got a lot going on in his life. This isn’t the sport for him. I don’t want to sound like I’m (expletive) all over the guy, because I really like the kid a lot, but this isn’t the sport for him. I would love to see him retire before he seriously gets hurt.”

Perhaps uncharacteristically, White genuinely seems without ill will towards his former employee contractor, and he isn’t wrong that Northcutt does have more options than most. The Karate kid still has the ability to return to college, makes a mint advertising on Instagram, and is generally likable enough to be on television somewhere.

However, I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing and training with Northcutt. After his loss, we shared a conversation on the logistics of removing surgery staples from your skull (I have unfortunate firsthand experience). “Super Sage” is not a pretender being pushed into this lifestyle like some on the web claim. He’s a genuine fan of learning martial arts, and he likes competing. More to the point, Northcutt is one of the few who is actually being paid quite well to compete. Fighting is always a risk, sure, but there are plenty of athletes with other options who are risking their health for a few hundred bucks rather than six figure checks.

Northcutt had a bad loss to a great striker, and his recovery will take time. If he were to chose another path than active competition, most would understand. But it’s not what I expect for Northcutt, who is likely to look better than ever when he does return to the cage.


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