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XFL Star Vies For Football Championship Even While Striving For Octagon Glory

D.C. Defenders LB Reggie Northrup hopes to end his Saturday night on ABC and ESPN+ an XFL champion, but forgive the emerging MMA competitor if he's also thinking about the UFC before kickoff

Reggie Northrup is pursuing two pro careers at once. While he’s playing for an XFL championship on ABC and ESPN+ on Saturday, there’s UFC on ESPN, ESPN+ and ABC platforms that same day as well.
(L: © Jess Rapfogel/XFL; R: Photo courtesy UFC)

Before the D.C. Defenders vie for the XFL Championship on Saturday night (8 ET) in San Antonio, star linebacker Reggie Northrup might be tempted to keep his eyes peeled for ESPN, ESPN+ and ABC content on Alamodome screens that afternoon.

After all, the emerging MMA competitor is a fervent fan of UFC. Those platforms are presenting the UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., with the main card beginning five hours before Northrup’s Defenders tackle the Arlington Renegades.

But the Defenders should not worry that Northrup, who won his welterweight MMA pro debut impressively in December 2022, is distracted. As many XFL ballcarriers discovered, Northrup makes his presence felt.

“I’ll be focused on this championship game, winning this championship, for the most part,” Northrup told Front Row this week, even as he also shared a breakdown of two headline UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida matches (see sidebar below).

“I probably won’t be able to get too tied up into [the UFC card]. They picked the wrong weekend” to ask for his undivided attention.

Still, Northrup typically watches ESPN’s UFC coverage whenever he can. The XFL’s 11th-leading tackler enjoys ESPN’s “commentary and the analysts. They give people good detail on what’s actually going on in the fights so people will understand that they really don’t understand.”

He’s 1-0 as a pro after winning all five amateur matches between football ventures.

Northrup’s meshing of pro football and MMA careers seems tailor-made for ESPN’s coverage.

In February, producer Kelsey Puckett profiled Northrup for an episode of DC&RC, ESPN+’s signature MMA show featuring UFC Hall Of Famer, two-division champion Daniel Cormier and former Super Bowl champion, MMA co-host and ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark (see excerpt in the tweet below).

Northrup earned All-ACC citations playing linebacker at Florida State from 2012-15, though he suffered an ACL injury in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Oregon.

After brief stints with three NFL teams in 2016, he played in four other pro leagues. Along the way, the Jacksonville, Fla., native nurtured an appreciation for MMA and one competitor in particular.

“Jon Jones is the reason I started watching MMA,” said Northrup of the fight legend, who, in March 2023, returned to the Octagon for a convincing victory in UFC 285. “He’s the reason why I started getting really interested in the sport, and it’s cool that he is back now.”

Should Northrup’s MMA career reach the UFC’s elite ranks, he has another icon in his sights: Jiri Prochazka, who in November vacated his 205-pound championship after suffering a training injury.

“He’s one of the world’s top strikers. I think I have what it takes to match up with him very well,” Northrup said. “I admire his fighting skill as well. I really do respect him. I also feel like I could make that [fight] happen.”

First championships first: He’s got the XFL title to play for Saturday.


By the time the Defenders and Renegades kick off Saturday for the XFL Championship in San Antonio, Northrup might be able to say “I told you so” regarding these UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida bouts.


Northrup: “I like Rozenstruik. He has some devastating power. He’s not very rangy, but he has explosive power, so you have to really watch out for it. His kickboxing is decent as well for a big guy. But the Almeida guy, he’s a pretty cool heavyweight contender. He’s real tall, long, rangy. He’s got a long reach . . . I think is Rozenstruik going to pull off the victory with another knockout. “


Northrup: “He’s got kind of a Conor McGregor kind of style as far as the way he fights. He’s long and rangy, so he has a good reach as far as leg reach and arm reach goes, so he’s a very difficult guy to really strike with. His grappling is pretty good and he’s been on a good roll since he’s joined UFC, so I like Garry to pull off the victory.

Visit ESPN Press Room for more details on ESPN’s XFL Championship Game and UFC Fight Night Presented by Modelo: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida coverage

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