Sage Northcutt versus his own hype

Photo chosen because, unlike the UFC, Twitter won’t sue us./ Screen shot by Brett Nielsen

Photo chosen because, unlike the UFC, Twitter won’t sue us./ Screen shot by Brett Nielsen

Undefeated fighters are the ones we love to hate

Sage Northcutt is a bit of strange case in the UFC. At only nineteen years old, the lightweight’s rise to stardom is perhaps the fastest in recent memory. In the short time since making his UFC debut last October, Sage has quickly become one of the promotion’s most talked about stars.

Despite being the youngest fighter on the roster, Sage is no joke, going into last Saturday’s fight with a perfect 7-0 record, finishing all of his opponents. Northcutt is unfailingly humble and polite, a devoted Christian, and registered in the petroleum engineering program at Texas A&M. As if that wasn’t enough, Northcutt is also prom-king handsome, built seemingly out of nothing but abdominal muscles and spiky blonde hair.

Basically, what I’m saying is that if he wanted to, he could bang your girlfriend. No problem.

If Sage has a fault, it is this – he is too easy to hate. We, as humans, break icicles and hunt foxes because a dark part of ourselves cannot stand that some other entity should exist in such a perfect state while we do not. It is this same dark instinct that made Northcutt perhaps the most hated man in MMA.

Going into last Saturday’s bout against Bryan Barberena in New Jersey, Northcutt was getting more Internet hate than Donald Trump, pound for pound. In their eagerness to produce new stars, the UFC rushed Northcutt into the spotlight, and the MMA community felt he did not deserve it, as though they expected Northcutt to turn down the opportunity. The situation was not helped by Northcutt’s fighter colleagues, who took to social media publicly lamenting the fact that Sage was being paid more than they were ($40,000 to show, and $40,000 to win).

What Sage Northcutt did last Saturday was the last thing anyone expected, and quite possibly the best move of his career – he lost.

In a classic MMA matchup, Bryan Barberena used his superior Jiu-Jitsu to neutralize the speedy taekwondo of Northcutt, staying inside and taking Sage down as often as possible. The two traded takedowns and heavy strikes throughout the first round, but early in the second Barberena was able to get on top securely. From there he dropped short punches and elbows onto Northcutt while slowly advancing into a head-and-arm triangle choke that forced the younger man to submit.

“I’ve got my own hype behind me,” said Barberena moments after his victory.

The 26-year old Californian accepted the fight on just eight days notice, and improved his record to 11-3.

For Sage, losing means very little. He has a long career ahead of him, and the end of the hype train just means that he can now safely blink without being criticized by millions. The trouble with perfection is that it is not a natural human quality, and the end of his undefeated streak humanizes him in the most endearing way possible. I admit that I kind of wanted Northcutt to lose

Oh, and he’s doing just fine – he’s already posted online a video of himself riding a hoverboard while spinning a basketball on his finger and thanking his fans warmly for their support. The bastard.

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