“Super” Sage Northcutt made a triumphant return to competition last May at ONE Fight Night 10. Now the American star will try to insert himself in the thick of ONE Championship’s lightweight MMA division by knocking off its former king.
At ONE 165: Superlek vs. Takeru, Northcutt will battle Shinya Aoki as part of a monster card in Tokyo, Japan.
The matchup and the city will allow Northcutt to check off a few boxes on his martial arts wish list.
“I’ve always dreamed of fighting in Japan, so getting to fight on ONE 165 on Jan. 28 is going to be very exciting,” Northcutt told ONE.
“I’m looking forward to starting off the year with a great performance. I like to finish my fights if I’m able to, to make it as exciting for all the fans as possible. The fans are definitely going to be in for a treat, that’s for sure. This is huge.”
Aoki is most certainly one of Japan’s biggest MMA stars. His long history of success has seen him bring gold back home on numerous occasions. However, this match may mark one of his final opportunities to score a major win in front of an audience of his compatriots.
Northcutt acknowledges his upcoming foe’s accolades and says they are one of the reasons this bout means so much to him.
“For me, it’s going to be great because he’s the former ONE lightweight MMA world champion. A lot of people know him as a legend in the sport. He’s had almost 60 pro [MMA] fights, he’s one of the longest-reigning champions in ONE Championship. This is definitely the biggest fight of my career,” the California resident confessed.
“Look at his record, what he’s accomplished. He’s had an amazing career and I don’t think he has anything else to prove. It’s an honor to get to fight him.”
Ever since Northcutt was rumored to return from the devastating injury he incurred in his ONE debut in 2019, a match with Aoki had been in the ether. Although it took some time to come to fruition, the moment both men have been waiting for is finally here.
They have exchanged words on social media, and at the recent ONE 165 press conference the Japanese icon dismissed Northcutt’s attempt to shake his hand.
Northcutt took that in stride, but he says it has added fuel to his need to put on an emphatic performance inside the Ariake Arena.
“We did have the fight scheduled before, and a couple of weeks before flying out, I got sick with COVID, and that was unfortunate. Getting to have this fight is a big opportunity,” he said.
“I went to shake his hand during the press conference, and he was pretty stone-cold serious, but it seems like that’s just his personality from his previous fights and stuff.”
“Man, it just pumps me up more to where I want to go train even harder. I’m going to try to hit him super hard out there. It doesn’t frustrate me at all. It was just interesting.”
On paper, Northcutt vs. Aoki is the classic striker vs. grappler battle. The Texan is aware that his advantage lies in staying on the feet , but he isn’t opposed to testing himself on the ground.
Regardless of where the action ends up, Northcutt wants to earn another finish and lay claim to one of the top spots in the talent-rich lightweight MMA division.
“Every fight starts standing up, so he’s got to be able to get me on the ground if he wants to go on the ground. And if we decide to go on the ground, I’ve definitely been training for it, and I believe in my jiu-jitsu and my grappling. I’m ready for wherever the fight gets taken,” he said.
“I don’t want to give away what my strategy is, but I’m planning on going out there to try to hit Shinya harder than he’s ever been hit in his life. If it gets into a grappling situation, or maybe he gets dropped and I’m on top of him, he’s also got to watch out for submissions too and be aware of those.”
“He’s never been submitted in mixed martial arts, ever. So that’d be pretty insane if I was able to submit Shinya out there in MMA. That’d be something.”
ONE 165 airs live from Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, Jan. 28. The action is available on global pay-per-view at watch.onefc.com for $39.99.
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