Former UFC welterweight Sage Northcutt was booked to make his return to ONE Championship last month in Tokyo. That’s where the 27 year-old karate wunderkind was expected to battle former PRIDE FC titleholder Shinya Aoki — but the fight fell apart at the last minute over cornermen visa issues.
So what the heck happened?
“I got a call from Sage during the ‘prelim’ fights and we went back and forth,” ONE Championship CEO, Chatri Sityodtong, said at the ONE 165 post-fight press conference. “His cornermen were actually on a plane. One of them already had a visa ready, he could have if he wanted to, but the other one couldn’t. And so Sage decided to withdraw because he couldn’t have his cornermen.”
Aoki remained on the card and submitted late replacement John Lineker.
That explanation didn’t sit well with Northcutt, who later revealed the visa issues were kept quiet until the very last minute. The “Super” Texan also suggested there was more to the story and threatened to blow the whistle on a variety of shady policies.
“One Championship is implying that I pulled out of the Shinya fight for unforeseen circumstances. That is completely inaccurate,” Northcutt wrote on social media. “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. 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,” Northcutt continued. “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 percent conviction rate on all arrests.”
“I made it clear to One Championship that I was not flying from America to Japan if I didn’t have my three coaches,” Northcutt said. “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.”
ONE Championship has yet to respond to Northcutt’s allegations.