LAS VEGAS – It’s obvious by just a quick glance at his Instagram account that Sage Northcutt is impressed by abdominal muscles – specifically, his abdominal muscles.
There is photo after photo of him either shirtless, or with his shirt pulled up, showing off a ripped midsection.
One of those pictures, though, stands out a bit more than the others. There is a photo of a shirtless Northcutt at 4 years old, circa 2000, showing off his six-pack.
Yep. You read that right. The guy – kid – had a six-pack at 4.
Obviously, genetics have played a big part in it and Northcutt’s amazing rise to prominence to the UFC. But it isn’t all genetics.
Much like former Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich a generation earlier, Northcutt was groomed from a very early age. And while his introduction to the world at large was a bit unusual – he was “discovered” by UFC president Dana White during the filming of the first episode of the web show, “Dana White: Looking for a Fight” – none of what has since occurred has been a shock to him.
Northcutt, who fights Cody Pfister on Thursday at The Cosmopolitan in his second UFC bout, is an incredible all-around athlete who has the talent to have competed in a number of sports. But he got involved in the martial arts at age 5 and by the time he was 9 and on the cover of Sport Karate magazine, he aspired to fight in the UFC.
“It’s been an amazing experience these last few months with the UFC, but it’s what I’ve worked for for a long time,” he said.
Northcutt’s body looks like something from a human anatomy atlas. He’s got muscles on top of muscles and is so ripped that Pfister suggested he has to be using steroids.
Northcutt, though, didn’t mind. His muscles, he said, are a result of genetics and a Spartan lifestyle he’s lived that is reminiscent of the rise of Marinovich. Marinovich’s father, Marv, raised his son to play quarterback, and everything Todd did from an early age was toward that goal.
Much the same way, Mark Northcutt has controlled his young son’s intake with the goal of making him a fighting machine.
“I don’t care that he said that,” Northcutt said of Pfister’s steroid allegations. “That’s a major compliment to me. I’m very thankful they’re saying stuff like that. It’s very nice of them. But I know how hard I’ve trained since I was a little kid. I’ve been dieting for 15 years.
“I’ve been on strict diets the whole time and eating right and training hard the whole time. I’ve worked to be where I am right now. Since I was 4, I’ve been eating egg whites, fish, grilled chicken, rice, vegetables, super lean hamburger meat, foods like that, ever since I was just a little kid. I was drinking protein shakes back then.”
When Marinovich became an adult and controlled his own life, he rebelled and lost his discipline. Though he was a first-round pick of the Raiders, he was a bust in the NFL and was in and out of trouble.
Northcutt insists he won’t befall the same fate because he says he’s doing what he wants.
And indeed, his voice is upbeat and filled with excitement.
His life took a major twist when White, on a whim, went to a Legacy Fighting show in Lake Charles, La., to film his web series. He’d never heard of Northcutt and was making fun of him when he first saw him.
But when White saw him fight, he was compelled to sign him and now says that Northcutt is one of the UFC’s two most promising young fighters, along with Paige VanZant.
“I was warming up for my fight that night and I had no idea anybody special was there,” he said. “And somebody came over and told me Mr. White was in the audience to see me compete. That was the first time I knew about it.”
His notoriety changed dramatically almost overnight. He went from a handful of Instagram followers to more than 50,000 in the week after his signing, and now has 105,000 followers on Instagram and 25,500 on Twitter.
Northcutt proved he wasn’t all hype, as he defeated Francisco Trevino in just 57 seconds at UFC 192 on Oct. 3 to raise his MMA record to 6-0 with six finishes.
Only one of his bouts, an Aug. 28 match with Rocky Long, got to the second round. The other five, including the win over Trevino, were finished in the first. Three of them were in less than a minute.
He says he loves to fight, but his practices are different than most. There isn’t the fierce sparring that many in MMA are known to implement. Rather, he works on position and minimizes the impact upon his body.
His goal isn’t to knock someone out or prove how tough he is in practice.
“My goal is to [use practice] to get better,” he says.
He hopes to fight again before March 1, which is his 20th birthday, because he says it would be “pretty amazing, actually,” to have three fights in the UFC while he’s still just 19.
He’s most focused on Pfister, though, and says all the attention won’t impact him.
“I’m doing what I love to do,” he said. “This is what I have wanted to do for so long, more than half my life. What could be better than being able to do exactly what it is you love to do?”
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