Trading Shots: Did Sage Northcutt’s painful ONE Championship debut teach us something about life outside the UFC?

What did Sage Northcutt’s painful debut for ONE Championship tell us about the tiers of MMA competition around the globe, and about the perception of any organization not named UFC? Retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes joins MMA Junkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss in this week’s Trading Shots.

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Downes: Ben, this may come as a shock to you, but people on the internet are mad at something a website posted. This week the culprit was a Deadspin headline that read, “Poor Sage Northcutt Gets Knocked Out 30 Seconds Into Minor League MMA Debut.”

As you might have guessed, a number of fans took umbrage with the use of “minor league” to describe ONE.

I’m not here to try to drag the author (who’s already admitted it was a mistake). Furthermore, we don’t even know if he’s the one who chose the headline. You know how editors can be, right?

Plus, the average sportswriter can be forgiven for not knowing the intricacies of the global MMA structure. We should just be thankful Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe won’t have opinions on Northcutt vs. Cosmo Alexandre.

There are clearly tiers in professional MMA, so how would you characterize “minor league” MMA? Why do the majority of American fans still think of the landscape as UFC and everything else? Also, what does it mean when former UFC fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Northcutt head over to ONE and lose their debut fights?

Fowlkes: If your fight promotion has Demetrious Johnson, you’re not minor league. The real minor leagues in this sport are what we often refer to as “regional” promotions.

If you have clauses in your contracts to let fighters bolt the moment they get an offer from the UFC? If you brag about being a feeder for the UFC, or about how many fighters have jumped straight from your roster to the UFC’s? Then yeah, odds are you’re the minor leagues of MMA.

Maybe it’s just my view from inside the bubble, but the responses to this that I saw made it pretty clear that most fight fans don’t regard ONE Championship as the minors. And some of the recent matchmaking has made me wonder if ONE’s goal is to use former UFC fighters in order to make that point.

Giving Northcutt a very tough fight against Alexandre in his debut? Matching Alvarez up against “Tim Nasty” in the first round of the tournament? These don’t seem like the fights you make if you regard your recent UFC free agent signings as precious commodities that must be nurtured and protected.

Maybe instead, the goal was to show that ONE Championship has some very tough fighters on its roster, even if they’re not backed by the three special letters.

That had serious consequences for Northcutt, though. The boy wonder got his face smashed in particularly grisly fashion (though even that couldn’t dampen his general enthusiasm for life). That’s a rough start overseas after leaving the UFC on a winning streak. Does it make you think the UFC was right to let him walk, having squeezed what value it could out of him? Did the attempt to make him a star by simply telling us he already was one teach us anything?

Downes: I don’t know what you mean by “right.” Was it a tactical decision with fairly sound business logic? Sure. Did Northcutt probably ask for more money, and UFC executives realized they didn’t have the clout or the energy to make him a “thing”? You know it. A popular early narrative in the UFC on ESPN era so far is that UFC officials don’t really have to try. They’re getting the money up front. Case in point, last night’s UFC Rochester card.

Then again, I don’t know if the ESPN deal has made UFC officials consciously change their business decisions, or if we’re seeing the continuation of a trend started a few years ago. The UFC has always assumed the brand is bigger than any fighter not named Conor McGregor. The powers that be in the company may have spent some time and capital on Northcutt, but he was a sunk cost by the time his contract ended. At least they still have Paige VanZant, I guess.

As for what we’ve learned from how the UFC handled Northcutt, there are two competing points of view. One side can laugh at the UFC for putting promotional muscle behind an unproven kid who fizzled out. Lots of people say the UFC can’t build stars and simply got “lucky” the Ronda Rouseys and McGregors of the world showed up.

On the other hand, I think the Sage Experience shows how beneficial it can be to have the UFC on your side. Sure, Northcutt never became a champion, but he’s earned a lot more money and fame than any other MMA fighter of his caliber.

Part of that can be attributed to the backlash. Once a lot of MMA fans know you’re  a company guy, they’ll do whatever they can to dunk on you as often as possible. That just means more attention.

You also have to give Northcutt credit for adapting to the situation. Whether he’s tearing apples, washing his car without a shirt on, or doing whatever the hell this is, I have a hard time imagining he’s not in on the joke. Maybe we learned that a muscular, conventionally attractive guy who can do flippy stuff can make some decent money in this sport. Wait a minute. That can’t be all we learned, can it?

Fowlkes: Maybe we learned that you can only conceal a fighter’s flaws for so long. The UFC desperately wanted Northcutt to be a thing, even when that desperation prompted some backlash among both fans and fighters. He got advantageous matchups, good card placement, plus the benefit of the UFC hype machine. Then when it was time to negotiate a new deal the UFC decided that maybe he wasn’t going to be a thing after all – or at least a thing worth paying for.

He took his talent to ONE Championship, but by then all the attention the UFC gave him made him a target as well as a symbol. If one of your guys beats up one of the UFC’s guys, maybe you’ve made a point that was worth the price tag. And maybe that point is that you’re not so minor league after all.

Still, it’s not exactly a revelation that there are good fighters outside the UFC. There’s talent all over the place in this sport. The challenge for other promoters has been getting fans to care. Seeing the UFC’s former golden boy get his whole stuff broke might make a strong impression. It might also end up swiftly forgotten.

Ben Fowlkes is MMA Junkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMA Junkie contributor who has also written for and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

Sage Northcutt post ‘nine-hour’ surgery: I’ll be back

Sage Northcutt suffered a knockout defeat this past Friday (May 17) in Singapore. American mixed martial artist was making his ONE Championship debut against multiple Muay Thai and kickboxing world champion Cosmo Alexandre of Brazil. The scheduled for three rounds welterweight MMA bout ended in favor of the latter, who scored a one punch knockout win in 29 seconds of Round 1. The pair was featured on “Enter the Dragon” card.

Post-fight Northcutt was admitted to the hospital where he has undergone a “nine hour intense” surgery. The fighter took it to social media providing some of the details on suffered injury, such as “8 fractures”. Yet, “Super Sage” is looking to “be back”.

“Fresh out of surgery… I had 8 fractures and a nine hour intense operation. Feeling blessed for the amazing care and all the support from ONE Championship, my family / friends and fans! My Terminator face is not too Shabby.. ‘I’ll be back!’ Next post is catheter removal… stay tuned-JK,” Sage Northcutt wrote in the caption.

Prior signing with ONE Championship, Sage Northcutt (11-3) won six out of eight bouts in the UFC, including three previous outings. His resume includes the victories against Zak Ottow, Thibault Gouti, Michel Quinones, among others. The 23-year-old has also become the youngest person ever to be featured on the cover of Sport Karate Magazine at the age of 9, as well as won as many as 77 youth World Championships in karate.

Sage Northcutt shares a photo of X-ray on Instagram
Sage Northcutt shared a photo of X-ray in social media | Pic: via Instagram / supersagenorthcutt

FIGHTMAG team wishes Sage Northcutt a speedy recovery.

The former “Lion Fight” Muay Thai Super Middleweight champion Cosmo Alexandre is riding the eight-fight win streak in MMA. Three of his latest bouts he won by way of stoppage in the first round against Northcutt, Musu Nuertiebieke and Rey Trujillo.

The post Sage Northcutt post ‘nine-hour’ surgery: I’ll be back appeared first on FIGHTMAG.

Urijah Faber encourages fans to support Sage Northcutt after KO loss

On Friday, on the main card of the stacked ONE: Enter the Dragon card in Singapore, former UFC talent Sage Northcutt made his ONE Championship debut opposite dangerous kickboxing export Cosmo Alexandre. Unfortunately for Northcutt and his legions of fans, this ONE debut went disastrously, as we was knocked out in less than 30 seconds.

After this tough knockout loss, Northcutt was carted to a Singapore, where he underwent a nine-hour surgery to repair several facial injuries.

“Fresh out of surgery…I had 8 fractures and a nine hour intense operation,” Sage Northcutt explained in a recent Instagram post. “Feeling blessed for the amazing care and all the support from [ONE Championship] my family/friends and fans!”

This loss was understandably a tough one Northcutt’s friends, family and training partners. That includes Team Alpha Male boss Urijah Faber, who joined Northcutt in Singapore as a cornerman.

Speaking on his official Instagram account on Sunday, the former WEC featherweight champion and long-time UFC bantamweight contender praised Sage Northcutt for his remarkable spirit, and encouraged fans to rally behind the young karate specialist after this difficult setback.

“Sage’s positivity is always inspiring,” Faber said of his pupil. “Eight fractures and a nine hour surgery later (was supposed to be 4 hours) he is on the way to recovery. A reminder of how real our sport is, and how brave everyone is that steps into the Arena. Send Sage some love, he’s the type of guy that is always spreading it!”

As Faber suggests, Sage Northcutt is one of the most overwhelmingly positive people in the sport — quite possibly on the planet.

Northcutt left the UFC on a three-fight win-streak, composed of two decision wins over Michel Quiñones and Thibault Gouti, and a TKO defeat of Zak Ottow.

Here’s hoping the young ONE Championship star makes a full and speedy recovery!

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/19/2019.

The post Urijah Faber encourages fans to support Sage Northcutt after KO loss appeared first on |

Watch Sage Northcutt get face planted in ONE Championship debut (fight highlights)

ONE Enter the Dragon Fight Highlights

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Former UFC poster boy Sage Northcutt got face-planted by Cosmo Alexandre in his ONE Championship debut at “Enter the Dragon” on Friday, May 17, in Singapore.

The day after the fight, Northcutt posted an update, admitting that he suffered eight fractures and had to endure a nine-hour surgery to repair the damage.

In the ONE: Enter the Dragon main event, rising star Christian Lee upset two-time ONE lightweight champion Shinya Aoki to capture the 155-pound belt.

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ONE: Enter the Dragon Results (Singapore, May 17, 2019)

  • Christian Lee def. Shinya Aoki via TKO (Punches) at 0:51 of R2 (Wins Lightweight Title)
  • Regian Eersel def. Nieky Holzken ‏via Decision (Unanimous) (Wins Lightweight Kickboxing Title)
  • Petchmorrakot Petchyindee def. Giorgio Petrosyan via Decision (Split) (Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix Quarter Final)
  • Samy Sana def. Yodsaenklai Fairtex via Decision (Unanimous) (Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix Quarter Final)
  • Cosmo Alexandre def. Sage Northcutt via KO (Punch) at 0:29 of R1
  • Saygid Arslanaliev def. Amir Khan (Lightweight Grand Prix Semi Final)
  • Geje Eustaquio def. Kim Kyu Sung via Decision (Unanimous)
  • Miao Li Tao def. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke via KO (Punch) at 4:00 of R1
  • Jo Nattawut def. Sasha Moisa via TKO (Punches) at 1:25 of R3 (Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix Quarter Final)
  • Yoshitaka Naito def. Alex Silva via Decision (Unanimous)
  • Garry Tonon def. Yoshiki Nakahara via Submission (Heel Hook) at 0:54 of R1
  • Dzhabar Askerov def. Enriko Kehl (Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix Quarter Final)
  • Mei Yamaguchi def. Laura Balin via Submission (Armbar) at 3:45 of R1
  • Iuri Lapicus def. Shannon Wiratchai via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:20 of R3
  • Daniel Dawson def. Brown Pinas via Decision (Split) at 3:00 of R3 (Featherweight Kickboxing Grand Prix Alternate Bout)
  • Rahul Raju def. Richard Corminal via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:43 of R1

ONE Championship 96 video highlights: Beauty and brutality in Singapore

ONE Championship 96 took place Friday in Singapore, and you can check out highlights of the night’s featured action courtesy of the promotion.

The night’s main event saw 20-year-old Christian Lee (12-3) survive some early trouble and battle back to stop MMA legend Shinya Aoki (43-9) to claim the promotion’s lightweight title and join his sister, Angela Lee, as a ONE titleholder.

Additionally, kickboxing specialist Cosmo Alexandre (8-1) gave Sage Northcutt (11-3) a brutal welcome to the promotion, leveling “Super” Sage with a one-punch knockout.

Check out highlights of all the action in the video above.

For more on ONE Championship 96, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

Sage Northcutt reveals having 9-hour surgery to repair facial fractures from knockout

Sage Northcutt’s first career knockout loss came at a costly price.

Northcutt’s anticipated ONE Championship debut went down Friday in Singapore, and it was essentially a worst-case scenario. Northcutt (11-3) was knocked out in brutal fashion just 29 seconds into his fight with Cosmo Alexandre (8-1), getting left face first on the canvas after taking a huge punch.

Although Northcutt was alert and walking around the ring following the knockout, the damage was extensive. He shared an update from the hospital on Saturday night and revealed that he’d undergone a nine-hour surgery for eight facial fractures sustained in the contest.

Unsurprisingly, though, Northcutt was upbeat when delivering the message (via Instagram):

Fresh out of surgery…I had 8 fractures and a nine hour intense operation. Feeling blessed for the amazing care and all the support from @onechampionship, my family/friends and fans! My Terminator face is not too Shabby.. 💀“I’ll be back!” Next post is catheter removal😳…stay tuned-JK 😎

Northcutt did not provide a timeline for his potential return, but apparently it’s possible not to keep him out for long. UFC featherweight Cub Swanson shared some insight from his own experience (via Twitter):

Hey @sagenorthcutt I had almost the exact same injury in 2011 & I was back in the Octagon a few months later. I’m sure you’ll comeback stronger than ever too 🙏🏽

For more on ONE Championship 96, check out the MMA Events section of the site.