O’Malley’s corner is another story entirely.
In Saturday’s UFC 252 bantamweight co-main event, Vera became the first fighter to defeat O’Malley, capitalizing on an O’Malley leg injury to attack with ground-and-pound and finish with heavy elbows from top position. Referee Herb Dean was quick to step in for the stoppage, which drew no protest from O’Malley as he remained on his back clutching at his leg, in obvious pain.
According to Vera, O’Malley’s corner did take issue with Dean’s call, which wasn’t surprising to Vera given the pre-fight talk he heard from an opposing cornerman.
“The guy was snoring,” Vera said of O’Malley at the UFC 252 post-fight press conference. “When I landed the second elbow, he was making noises, he was out. And then when Herb Dean got in the middle, you could see [O’Malley’s] head bounce back. I see his corner saying, ‘No, that was too early.’ We make eye contact and I was like, ‘You know that sh*t wasn’t early,’ and the guy was pretty quiet all of a sudden.
“That guy was talking sh*t while we were getting ready to walk to the cage. He was yelling, ‘He’s slow.’ It’s like, dude, it’s a fu**ing fight, if you want to try to get in my head, you’ve got to try harder than that. So I was just like, the only way to make you pay is fu**ing your kid up.”
Much of the promotion leading up to their grudge match swirled around O’Malley (a hype video shown earlier in the evening on ESPN went as far as to compare O’Malley to decorated athletes in other sports including NBA superstars Russell Westbrook and Luka Doncic and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson), but Vera wasn’t preoccupied by the outside-of-the-cage narrative or any trash talk that might have happened between him and O’Malley in interviews or through social media.
“When it’s about fighting, those things don’t bother me,” Vera said. “You’ve got to beat those guys in the way I did in order to get what they had. I’m not a guy that I’m chasing promotion or Instagram followers. All that sh*t came by fu**ing people up and that’s why I’m here.”
Regarding the injury that O’Malley suffered, Vera took credit for putting stress on that area with a “hard calf kick” that he landed early in the fight.
Vera has now won six straight fights at 135 pounds (a loss in his previous bout to Song Yadong took place at featherweight) and he’s targeting a top-10 opponent next. He credited the close decision loss to Song with providing added motivation between fights and as far as he’s concerned that bout should have been scored in his favor anyway.
“I believe I’m a solid top-10,” Vera said. “I’ve been making damage in the division. What happened in the last fight got me pretty upset, got me pretty angry, and actually made me do what I did tonight. I wasn’t happy. I was pushing myself a little harder. I was being hard on me. I don’t give myself vacation, I don’t give myself cheat days. I was like, it’s time to dig deep and that’s when I find myself even better. I came to this fight with a mission. I cannot let this happen again in my life.
“That was terrible. They take half of my check, they cut a pretty sweet winning streak, which—I’m at seven right now, I don’t care what they say, I’m on [a seven-fight] winning streak.”