Sage Northcutt is ready to break into lightweight contendership when ONE Championship returns to Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, January 28, for ONE 165.
After a triumphant return last May, Northcutt has eyes to make his way toward the top of the division. Having always wanted to compete in Japan, Northcutt is excited to put on a show inside Ariake Arena.
“I’ve always dreamed of fighting in Japan, so getting to fight on ONE 165 on January 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.”
To do so, he’ll have to topple the former king — Shinya Aoki.
It is a perfect opponent for the Team Alpha Male representative. The Sacramento resident sees tremendous upside if he can take down one of the iconic figures of Japanese MMA.
“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 Sacramento resident stated.
“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.”
The battle between Aoki and Northcutt has been in the works for some time but has failed to come to fruition in the past. Their clash of personalities makes the matchup all the more exciting.
Fans witnessed that first-hand at the ONE 165 press conference, and Aoki’s snub only served as extra motivation for the American.
“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,” Northcutt recalled.
“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.”
Spurred by Aoki’s gruff personality and desire to chase the ONE Lightweight MMA World Championship, Northcutt is coming into ONE 165 to find a highlight-reel finish.
Although he knows his greatest opportunity will come on the feet, he is not opposed to trying to submit the grappling ace if the chance arrives.
“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,” Northcutt 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, January 28. The event is available via global pay-per-view on watch.onefc.com for $39.99.