Written by @NickRiznerMMA
The future is here, and it’s downright adorable.
Wide-eyed with broad smiles and a care-free demeanor. An unshakable confidence softened by an unwavering humility. Youth and innocence personified.
Hell, their names even rhyme.
Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant look like one of those teenage couples on the side of an Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bag. Close your eyes, and you can picture them frolicking through a meadow or riding in a canoe; cascaded in black and white.
They could be lead characters in an over-romanticized Disney movie or a teen drama on ABC Family. You can imagine young girls plastering their lockers with magazine cut outs of Sage, as the boys their age day dream about asking Paige to the homecoming dance.
One thing is for sure. They certainly don’t look like professional fighters.
Well, perhaps it’s time we change our perception.
Their combined stats look like that of a talented veteran. Forty years old. Undefeated inside the Octagon at 4-0, with a professional record of 12-1. Currently on a ten fight win streak since April of 2013, with only one of those ten fights having gone the distance.
True, they may not be a perfectly polished product quite yet. But 19 and 21 years old, who is? Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant are absolute powerhouses from a marketing standpoint. They’ve got that ‘X-Factor,’ which can never be explicitly explained, yet seems to involve some combination of looks, attitude, and charisma. They’ve got the talent, heart, and aggression to back up the hype, as well as a undying willingness to prove that to us, again and again.
Let’s face it. When push comes to shove, we’re a simple people. We can use logic to explain away our reasons for not liking someone. We can break down evidence of what makes someone a star in this sport and even use such a formula to predict future stars. The UFC brass does this every day. But at the end of the day, all we’re really relying on is an eye-test and a hunch.
These two pass the eye test. And I have a hunch that they’re going to become superstars.
For the time being, promises of bright futures and championship glory come to us in the form of potential; the most fragile of all states. Potential has the power to drive people to great heights. It has the ability to lift select individuals above others and create an elite class above the masses. It is the single most powerful weapon at a fighter’s disposal.
It’s also the most volatile.
The very nature of ‘potential’ brings with it unbelievable pressure. This acts as a self-regulating process, weeding out those that are unworthy. Those who can survive, however, are solidified as legends; forever in the folk lore of sporting history. Time is the only true meter of success vs. failure.
We can’t accurately gauge the impact of a fighter’s career until it’s over. And even then, we are relegated to speculation at best. But this is not a level playing field. This game is not fair. There is certainly disparity in chance, and Paige and Sage have a better chance than most.
At this point, there is really only one question. Nobody can answer it but the fighter’s themselves, and even they may not know until they’re immersed in the moment. But the question remains, nonetheless.
Will they capitalize?