Sage Northcutt is looking to set the record straight regarding his short-notice withdrawal from a ONE Championship event last month.
Northcutt was scheduled to fight Japanese MMA icon Shinya Aoki at ONE 165 in Tokyo on January 28. An hour before their bout was scheduled to begin, the promotion revealed that Northcutt had bowed out, noting an “unforeseen circumstance with his cornermen.” As a result, former ONE bantamweight world champion John Lineker was literally pulled from the stands and thrown into the ring to ensure Aoki still had the opportunity to compete in front of his home country.
Speaking on the situation during a post-fight press event, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong appeared to place much of the blame on Northcutt, noting that current ONE welterweight submission grappling world champion Tye Ruotolo offered to step in and corner Northcutt in the absence of his coaches — one being former UFC title challenger Urijah Faber. Northcutt reportedly refused the last-second change and opted out of the bout.
Taking exception to his employer putting the blame squarely on his shoulders, Sage Northcutt snapped back at ONE Championship in a lengthy post on social media to set the record straight.
“One Championship is implying that I pulled out of the Shinya fight for unforeseen circumstances,” Northcutt wrote on Instagram. “That is completely inaccurate.. I sent One Championship the necessary paperwork they required to get my coaches visas 48 days ahead of the event. I was told by them over the phone and by text my main jujitsu coach Fabio Prado did not need a visa since I paid for his airfare flights and trip so he was not classified as a working employee that needed a visa and that my other coach could get in as a tourist so he didn’t need one either,” Sage Northcutt wrote.
“My coaches were there for almost a week, and I was not informed that two of them could not coach until hours before my match. I received a text from an unknown number that texted me for the first time that day that was a ticket salesman asking me about getting my two coaches complimentary tickets to watch my fight in the audience.
“I personally believe that One Championship was not going to inform me that my coaches were not allowed to corner me until I arrived at the arena to fight if I did not hear from a ticket salesman hours earlier. We were also told hours before my match that if my coaches violated the visa requirements and were caught on camera, they could be arrested and there was a 99.8% conviction rate on all arrests,” Sage Northcutt continued.
“I made it clear to One Championship that I was not flying from America to Japan if I didn’t have my three coaches. I was told before I left to Japan by an executive that I would not have to fight without my coaches. They knew before I left that I would not be able to have two of my coaches. They never told me my coaches could be thrown in prison for any visa violation.
“There has been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes with One Championship with what caused me to withdraw from my last fight as well as other things that I will talk about at a later time on Facebook, Instagram, and with media outlets.
• drug testing
• weight cutting/ policies
• active athletes/ roster
• One’s stability… etc.”
Sage Northcutt isn’t the only fighter frustrated with ONE Championship
Sage Northcutt has only fought twice since signing with ONE, but it sounds like the honeymoon is already over between the two.
Northcutt isn’t the only contracted fighter who appears to be at odds with the Singapore-based promotion. Reigning ONE featherweight kickboxing world champion Chingiz Allazov recently expressed a desire to terminate his contract. “ONE is one of the best kickboxing promotions, it’s true… but we don’t like the contract about this promotion,” Allazov said in a statement. Unfortunately for Allazov, ONE has no intention of granting the Azerbaijani-Belarusian fighter his release according to Nick Atkin of the South China Morning Post. His deal is reportedly up in December 2026.
It will be interesting to see what else Sage Northcutt has to say about the inner workings of ONE Championship.