‘The Biggest Fight Of My Career’ – Sage Northcutt Can’t Wait To Square Off With Shinya Aoki In Tokyo
As a lifelong practitioner of the Japanese art of karate, “Super” Sage Northcutt has always wanted to compete in the sport’s homeland.
Now an elite mixed martial artist, the American will finally fulfill that goal when he takes on former ONE World Champion and legendary Japanese athlete Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki at ONE 165: Superlek vs. Takeru in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, January 28.
The nation’s combat sports fans are some of the most knowledgeable and appreciative anywhere in the world, and although he’s going up against a homegrown favorite, Northcutt can’t wait to put on a show at the Ariake Arena.
He spoke to onefc.com ahead of his lightweight MMA contest at the massive event:
“I’ve always dreamed of fighting in Japan, so getting to fight on ONE 165 on January 28 is going to be very exciting.
“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.”
Competing in “The Land of the Rising Sun” is already a bucket-list moment for Northcutt, but he feels even more fortunate to go up against one of the country’s greatest-ever competitors.
While “Super” Sage has played his part in some important matchups throughout his career, he views this battle as his greatest opportunity to date.
The 27-year-old explained:
“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.
“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.”
Northcutt Wants To Hit Aoki ‘Harder Than He’s Ever Been Hit’
The matchup between Sage Northcutt and Shinya Aoki has been brewing for years. Both men have expressed interest in facing one another several times, and they were booked to meet in 2021 until an illness forced the American out.
After all the buildup, they finally met face-to-face at the ONE 165 press conference late last year, and “Tobikan Judan” refused a handshake from his upcoming foe.
While Northcutt wasn’t too fazed by the move, he is still fired up to throw down with Aoki on January 28:
“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.
“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.”
In terms of styles, Northcutt was a multiple-time Karate World Champion in his youth, while Aoki is a BJJ and judo black belt with a reputation as one of the best submission artists in MMA history.
But while “Super” Sage does plan on utilizing his striking, he’s confident in his all-around game and won’t rule out being the first man to submit Aoki in his long career – especially after delivering ONE’s best submission of 2023.
“Every fight starts standing up, so he’s gotta 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.
“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.”