After missing over two years of action, Sean O’Malley is trying to make up for lost time.
O’Malley looks to take another step forward when he faces Eddie Wineland, his most experienced opponent to date, on Saturday at UFC 250. The event takes place at UFC APEX in Las Vegas and is headlined by a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer.
Following a long battle with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in which he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, “Sugar” returned to the octagon at UFC 248 in March and delivered a sensational first-round TKO finish of Jose Quinones. O’Malley was able to use his time away from the cage wisely and further develop his skill set.
While appearing on MMA Fighting’s What the Heck, O’Malley was asked whether or not the fight with Quinones felt like his third fight in the UFC, or his first.
“A little bit of both,” O’Malley said. “It did feel like it was my debut again, like a coming back party, and it also felt like I had been there a ton. So it was a mixture of, ‘Damn, this is the first time I’m ever fighting in the UFC,’ and, ‘I’m a vet here! I know how to perform. I know what I need to do.’”
O’Malley hoped for another step-up in competition and received it in Wineland, a veteran of 38 professional fights. Wineland returns to action almost one year after his most recent appearance, a second-round knockout win over Grigorii Popov at UFC 238.
When the 25-year-old O’Malley got Wineland’s name, he was immediately excited.
“I think this is a perfect next match for me,” he explained. “He’s a vet, and it’s a good matchup for me. Anyone that’s gonna try and strike with me is a good matchup for me.”
The Dana White’s Contender Series standout remains unbeaten in 11 professional fights, with nine stoppages. O’Malley is well aware of the depth and talent the bantamweight division possesses, but also believes there hasn’t been a standout contender in the bunch.
With that, he believes he has the chance to jump groups of contenders with each performance on his way to the top of the division.
“I think it could be the best division in the UFC right now,” O’Malley said. “The whole top-10 is so stacked, but I think with my style, the performance that I’m gonna have (on Saturday) and continue to have with my name being big, and my following being big, I think in a couple of fights, I could be fighting for that title.”
To get those bigger names, O’Malley hopes to be compensated as such. Currently, he has two fights left on his current deal and, with an impressive win over Wineland, he believes he’ll head to the negotiating table with the UFC, though, he’s been wrong about that before.
“That’s what I was told last fight, and then, all of a sudden, (it was a) no,” O’Malley said. “It’s hard to tell with the UFC.”
On a fight card that showcases the bantamweight division, O’Malley has his eyes on everybody. Even Brian Kelleher, whom he’s previously dismissed, could end up on his radar if Kelleher defeats Cody Stamann at UFC 250.
As far as how the fight Wineland plays out, O’Malley predicts it won’t last very long.
“First-round knockout,” he confidently predicted. “His style versus my style, and we both show up? It’s a quick night for us. I think I’m gonna put him away fast.”