Sage Northcutt, a 19-year-old whose star has been given major elevation by the UFC, lost his first pro fight in Newark on Saturday night.
It was viewed by many as a facile win for Bryan Barberena; mainly due to the ease with which Northcutt tapped out. Numerous fighters on social media took delight in the loss. Northcutt has been fast-tracked by the promotion; his remuneration far exceeding what you would expect for someone so early in his career.
Speaking on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Northcutt had a reason for the ease with which he tapped out - just days before the fight, he contracted strep throat.
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. 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.
According to the Texan, not only did the strep throat mean he had trouble breathing, it also affected his concentration.
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.
Coming up in the week for the UFC, I always try to keep a smile on my face and act like there's nothing going on, so that way no one would know that I was even sick or anything like that. The UFC knew I was sick because I had to go to the emergency clinic. But really, I was just laying down in bed and sleeping the whole time coming into the event, besides going out and doing the media that I got do to and had to do for the UFC.
He described the his breathing during the fight as being akin to respiring through a straw.
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.
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.