Sage Northcutt’s hype train was derailed by Bryan Barberena at UFC On FOX 18 this past weekend who surprisingly managed to quickly tap him out with an arm triangle despite being in his half guard at the time, but the teenage star has since insisted that an illness was the real reason for his first professional loss.
“Two days before my fight, I had a real bad relapse of the strep throat and I had to go to the emergency ready clinic,” Northcutt claimed on The MMA Hour show. “The UFC had to take me, then [a doctor] with the UFC had to write a prescription for more antibiotics, stuff like that. So I really couldn’t explain how I felt out there. I felt really horrible.”
According to Northcutt he’s been having a recurring battle with strep throat over the past few months and as fight night approached in New Jersey it was affecting his breathing, concentration and ability to hear properly, while it also meant that outside of his PR obligations he was just lying down and sleeping a lot.
That he claims is the reason why he eventually ended up tapping to Barberena’s submission hold despite it being applied from a position that you’d not normally expected to see a finish from.
“The thing was, having a hard time breathing and having a mouthpiece in … when he was on top of me, having his shoulder, I guess, in my throat for that — I know it wasn’t like a traditional head and arm choke from side control where you get to apply the same kind of pressure, but just being able to have your jaw shut and then trying to breathe through your nose for this time during the fight, I was so congested, to tell you the truth, that I couldn’t even breathe, much less stand up really.”
Northcutt, who’d moved up a division in short notice when his original opponent pulled out injured, has come under heavy criticism from his fellow fighters and fans following the loss – perhaps unfairly given that he’s still just a teenager – but it seems that he too was disappointed with his performance on the night.
“I felt like I let everybody down and let the UFC down,” Northcutt admits. “I let myself down.”
Not everyone was keen to join the Northcutt backlash bandwagon on Saturday night though, with Khabib Nurmagomedov lashing out at his next opponent Tony Ferguson for a twitter post he’d made revelling in the fighters loss.
“Talk sh*t about 19 year old you’re jealous of him because he makes more money than you you are a bum,” Nurmagomedov informed Ferguson.
Nurmagomedov then offered Northcutt some words of encouragement.
“Hi @sagenorthcutt don’t worry about all this jealous people keep working hard.”
The truth is that much of the backlash has stemmed not from anything Northcutt has done, but rather the fact that the UFC had hyped him up so much and paid him more than many other newcomers to the promotion despite his relative inexperience which appears to have built up resentment among many other fighters on the roster.
Perhaps having the weight of expectation lifted from his shoulders will prove to be a good thing for Northcutt, and it seems he isn’t overly discouraged by his first pro defeat, assuring his fans on Twitter that, “I’ll be back better than ever.”