ONE Championship VP Rich Franklin relates to ‘mental exercise’ Sage Northcutt faces in return from injury
When Sage Northcutt was in the hospital, Rich Franklin made sure to visit him.
“It was a pretty devastating shot,” Franklin recently told MMA Junkie Radio. “The injuries were fairly severe. It wasn’t like he broke an arm and had to get casted, in and out. He spent some time there, so I stopped in.”
Northcutt needed surgery after he suffered multiple facial fractures in a devastating knockout loss to Cosmo Alexandre. That was the last time Northcutt fought, in his ONE Championship debut way back in May 2019.
Northcutt, a UFC veteran once highly touted as a prospect, finally makes his return to competition Friday at ONE Fight Night 10 in Broomfield, Colo. Northcutt takes on Ahmed Mujtaba in a lightweight bout (170 pounds under ONE Championship rules) in his first fight in nearly four years. The card streams on Amazon Prime Video.
Franklin, a former UFC middleweight champion and current ONE Championship VP, can only imagine what Northcutt, 27, has endured to get back to this point. In another sense, Franklin also feels like he can relate.
In 2006, Franklin was beat up badly by Anderson Silva, who claimed the UFC middleweight title with a vicious first-round knockout. Franklin remembers how “gun shy” he was in his next fight vs. Jason MacDonald and understands the nerves Northcutt might be feeling ahead of his return.
“I would imagine some of this is a bit of a mental exercise for him. After I lost my match to Anderson Silva, I was a little gun shy in that first match back,” Franklin said. “Until I got hit in the face one time, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what it feels like.’ Even though I had sparred and been hit a couple times sparring, but still, I can remember when I was slipping and overcompensating on my slips, slipping too far out of the way of the punch. … I can remember moving my head all over the place. Then finally like midway through that round I started settling in.”
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Franklin went on to beat MacDonald in that 2007 fight by second-round TKO when MacDonald’s corner threw in the towel.
Perhaps Northcutt (11-3), who left the UFC on a three-fight winning streak before signing with ONE, can return to similar success, but Franklin knows it won’t be easy.
“Some of that will be a bit of a mental exercise for him. This is not an easy matchup, much like the Jason Macdonald matchup was not an easy matchup (for me) either. That guy was a killer,” Franklin said. “And so (Sage) is coming back, and this Mujtaba (guy) that he’s competing against, he’s legit as well. This is gonna be a fun one to watch.
“Sage obviously is an amazing athlete. You see what he can do acrobatically and everything. If he performs the way that he can and should and gets his head moving and puts his combinations together, this will be a good match to watch. Because Mujtaba is a tough, tough guy.”