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02nd Feb 2016

Sage Northcutt reveals why he tapped out so quickly in first defeat

Ben Kiely

Sage Northcutt really shouldn’t have been fighting on Saturday night.

The 19-year-old karate phenom didn’t seem to be himself during his first professional loss to late replacement Brian Barberena at UFC Newark. Northcutt was given plenty of abuse online after many thought he was too quick to tap to an arm triangle choke that his opponent locked in from half guard.

However, after Northcutt explained the real reason why he underperformed on Monday’s MMA Hour, and suddenly his quick tap makes a lot of sense.

“Two days before my fight, I had a real bad relapse of the strep throat and I had to go to the emergency ready clinic,” he said.

“The UFC had to take me, then [a doctor] with the UFC had to write a prescription for more antibiotics, stuff like that. So I really couldn’t explain how I felt out there. I felt really horrible.”

Northcutt explained that he had been battling strep throat for months, and that the symptoms  had worsened in the run up to the fight.

“I’ve never felt like that ever before. Not just the breathing. It felt like I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t my normal self. I was having a real hard time hearing.

“Like, you can imagine if you fly on an airplane and your ears get stuffed up where they have to pop? It felt like that but times two or three, where I couldn’t even hear my coaches, what they were saying. Even face-to-face, I couldn’t hear anything.”

Super Sage added that he was completely calm during the submission attempt that forced the tap. However, his breathing was so congested from his illness that he was unable to continue fighting.

“It wasn’t the fact that I was panicking. I felt very calm. The thing was, having a hard time breathing and having a mouthpiece in … when he was on top of me, having his shoulder, I guess, in my throat for that — I know it wasn’t like a traditional head and arm choke from side control where you get to apply the same kind of pressure, but just being able to have your jaw shut and then trying to breathe through your nose for this time during the fight, I was so congested, to tell you the truth, that I couldn’t even breathe, much less stand up really.”

Northcutt attributed his less than stellar striking during the bout to the strep throat as well.

“That’s why I wasn’t able to move the same, wasn’t able to kick the same. What I wanted to do and what I thought in my head about doing out there, I wasn’t able to actually act it out and do it because my body wasn’t able to keep up.

“It was like breathing through a straw. That’s what it really felt like. So down there in that position, even though it may not have been the best locked in hold, I was having such a hard time breathing that it was just as tight as what it might have been if I was in that kind of position if I wasn’t sick, if that makes sense.”