HOBOKEN, N.J. — Sage Northcutt has been impossible to solve in seven professional fights, but less than two years into his career, making him upset may prove to be tougher than beating him.
The 19-year-old was his typical beaming self at open workouts ahead of UFC on Fox 18 in Newark, smiling from the moment he walked in the door and embracing each small moment with the enthusiasm of a puppy.
“It gets more and more fun,” Northcutt said with a huge grin despite the half-dozen cameras and microphones pointed at his face.
An engineering student at Texas A&M, Northcutt was picked up by the UFC after appearing on the pilot episode of the new reality show, “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight.” He’s won his first two fights since signing, receiving plenty of promotion from the organization looking for its next superstar.
While many have derided Northcutt for receiving perceived special treatment from the promotion, he doesn’t let the ridicule bother him, even finding humor in some of the barbs.
“A lot of the times, anything that somebody tries to say negative is actually kind of funny,” Northcutt said. “I really don’t listen to any of the negative stuff. Anything that’s positive, that’s kind of the stuff I’m listening to, and that’s kind of what, like, brings you up.”
Northcutt said he appreciates all the new fans he’s gained since making his UFC debut. The only downside is not being able to respond to everyone he’d like to on social media, he said.
While Internet trolls can’t throw Northcutt off his game, the Texas-based fighter will have to keep things together despite late changes in both opponent and weight class. Originally scheduled to face Andrew Holbrook at lightweight, where Northcutt fought both of his UFC bouts, he now is slated for a welterweight fight against Bryan Barberena on just eight days’ notice after Holbrook suffered a broken foot.
Ever the optimist, Northcutt is taking the switches in stride. He accepted the new fight without hesitation, saying he understands the difficulty of finding an opponent that can make weight and pass medical exams on such short notice.
“I had pretty much dieted down all my weight and was ready to make weight, so now I’m fighting at welterweight, I come to find out just a few days ago, so now I’m eating my way back up and gaining my weight back,” Northcutt said.
Feeling both faster and stronger without a hefty weight cut, Northcutt’s using the situation as an opportunity to test himself for future bouts at the new weight, which sounds like it could become a permanent home.
“If I have another fight at welterweight after this, I know I’ll get to put on more muscle than I ever have before,” Northcutt said. “I’ll get to be stronger, faster, quicker and be the best fighter that I have been so far.”