Zak Ottow believes he’s more than ready for whatever Sage Northcutt plans to throw his way at UFC Fight Night 133.
Ottow welcomes Northcutt back to the welterweight division in the co-main event of the event, which takes place Saturday night in Boise, Idaho. Northcutt, 22, is 5-2 in the UFC — he’s undefeated at 155 pounds, but hasn’t won a single fight at 170 pounds. Ottow, a Milwaukee native, was excited — albeit surprised — when he got the call to face “Super Sage.”
“I thought he’d probably be staying [at lightweight] because he was winning down there,” Ottow told BloodyElbow.com. “But if he wants to come back up to 170, I’m happy to welcome him. I was pretty pumped to get the fight, but surprised. He’s been brought up slowly, and now it’s time for him to get a test.”
Northcutt’s previous opponents include Bryan Barberena, Mickey Gall, Cody Pfister, among others — and Ottow is confident that come Saturday, he’ll be the best fighter Northcutt has ever fought.
The UFC signed Northcutt in 2015 after an appearance on Dana White: Looking for a Fight and has since invested more money than usual into the Texas native. In only his second UFC bout, Northcutt earned $40,000 to show with a $40,000 win bonus. Most fighters with similar experience are lucky to make a quarter of that.
Northcutt is clearly a fighter the UFC has tried to push ever since he first stepped foot into the Octagon. Some fans were surprised when he was paired up against Ottow, who certainly seems to have more than one way to win on Saturday, despite being a slight betting underdog.
But according to Ottow, the UFC can’t book Northcutt against lesser opponents forever — that ended with this fight.
“Stylistically, I think I’m definitely the toughest opponent that he’s ever fought,” Ottow said. “At the same time, I think I’ve fought tougher people than him. Experience will definitely be on my side in this fight, and I plan on using that to win.
“I think you can only fight bottom-of-the-roster guys so long. All of his wins have been over people that haven’t had that successful UFC career. You can only do that for so long, right? He’s on a winning streak. Time to test him. He’s at a good gym, training full time. Maybe he’s developing and ready for that test fight to see where he’s at.”
Now training at Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male — a top MMA gym for the lighter weight classes — and no longer in college, it seems that Northcutt has been making steady improvements over the last year.
That said, Ottow isn’t much of a believer in Northcutt’s game — and the other stuff, like the cheesy social media posts? The 31-year-old couldn’t care less.
“I’m not impressed with his fighting, that’s for sure,” Ottow. “I don’t really pay much attention — I heard he can break apples with his bare hands and sh-t like that. I don’t really care; I’m totally indifferent. He’s just another guy — maybe just slightly more ripped than some previous opponents. As far as skill set-wise, he’s not on my level.
“The two times he fought actual UFC-caliber fighters, he lost.”
Though he believes he’s a much better fighter, Ottow hasn’t found it difficult to stay motivated for Northcutt — after all, anyone can knock anyone out.
“Somebody’s waking up every day training to try to hurt you in front of the whole world on a certain date,” Ottow said. “I never really got those people that had a hard time getting motivated for fights. I’m always motivated. I don’t care if I like the guy, if I don’t like the guy — as soon as that cage door closes, this is my job and I’m there to take care of business.”
Some fans may argue Ottow doesn’t have much to lose at UFC Fight Night 133, as Northcutt is the one with pressure on his shoulders going into each of his fights — for more reasons than one. But even as the underdog, Ottow thinks otherwise.
“Sometimes he doesn’t quite show up on fight night. I’m sure it’s a lot to deal with,” Ottow said of Northcutt. “But I feel like I do have a lot to lose. I really need to get on a win streak. I really care about getting my finishes, and I want to continue that streak going in the UFC. My goals and my mindset are way higher than where I am right now. This is a must-win for me to get to where I want to be.”
Ottow has been on UFC main cards before, but this is his first co-main event slot. Plus, his fight has gotten some extra attention simply because of who his opponent is. Safe to say this is the biggest opportunity of Ottow’s career so far? He thinks so, anyway.
“The more people tuning in, asking questions, getting excited about the fight, the better,” Ottow said. “I like all the attention. Hopefully people watch and tune in on Saturday night — I think it’s gonna be a pretty epic fight.”
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