Boy Wonder Makes Comeback Attempt After Brutal Knockout
Sage Northcutt, the once child-prodigy, is returning to professional fighting at the end of April.
The 24-year-old Northcutt (11-3) is scheduled to fight the 37-year-old Shinya Aoki (46-9) in a lightweight (170) bout for the ONE Championship on April 28th.
It will be Northcutt’s first appearance since suffering eight facial fractures after being knocked out 29 seconds into his fight with Cosmo Alexandre in 2019.
Northcutt’s fighting career began when he graced the cover of Sports Karate Magazine at nine years old. His fame furthered when he was inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of fame at 15.
At 16, Northcutt began competing -- and dominating -- in the Legacy Fighting Championship. His performance was so convincing that Dana White signed him to the UFC, and at age 18 Northcutt won his first UFC fight in less than a minute via TKO. Northcutt’s early success led him to seven straight UFC victories, and he was starting to look like the prodigy everyone thought he would be. However, Northcutt was quickly brought back down to earth.
His next opponent, Andrew Holbrook, suffered an injury eight days before the fight and was replaced by Bryan Barberena. On short notice, Northcutt was caught in a submission in the second round. The loss was the beginning of a tumultuous 2016 where Northcutt went 1-2. Northcutt found his groove again, winning his last three fights in the UFC before his contract wasn’t renewed.
“Sage is young, and Sage needs some work. Let him get some work in some other organizations, and we will see where this kid ends up in a couple of years. Maybe we will pick him back up again,” White said on UFC Unfiltered in 2018 regarding the non-renewal of Northcutt’s contract.
Northcutt’s first fight after the UFC was his last fight -- where he was brutally knocked out by Alexandre in the first round of ONE Championship: Enter the Dragon.
“I learned my lesson about fighting a weight class too big,” Northcutt said in an interview with MMA News in 2019.
Northcutt fought Alexandre at 185, but he is fighting Aoki at 170.
No matter the weight, Northcutt will have his hands full with Aoki, the former ONE, DREAM and Shooto champion. Aoki is on a hot streak, winning seven of his last eight, including three in a row.
While Aoki is soaking up the end of a solid career, Northcutt’s shot at returning to the UFC is slipping away.