Sean O’Malley is well on his way to someday fighting for a UFC title and the opportunity was in reach just a couple of months ago.
When bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling was forced to withdraw from a rematch with Petr Yan scheduled for UFC 269, the promotion had to search for a new opponent to face Yan in an interim title bout. It was Cory Sandhagen who would go on to fight Yan and he lost a competitive five-round.
O’Malley was one of the fighters who publicly offered to replace Sterling and he revealed on The MMA Hour that if the UFC had come calling, he would have jumped at the chance in a second.
“A hundred percent,” O’Malley said. “I would hate to take a short-notice fight, I would prefer not to, but I looked at that fight as a win-win. I’m always in somewhat decent shape, you know you’re not always in fight shape, but it was four or five weeks out so I had time to get into pretty good shape and I was gonna go out there and give it my all for as long as I could.
“I thought losing to Petr Yan wouldn’t be that big of a loss. I think it would make for an even better rematch after I would earn that back, but I was a hundred percent serious and I know Cory was the front man who I believed deserved the shot over me, but I didn’t know if in that moment if he was healthy and able to. I know Rob Font had COVID, T.J. [Dillashaw] was out, I would have a hundred percent taken that fight if they offered me it.”
Had O’Malley stepped into a title shot, it would have been off the strength of two dominant victories over late replacement Kris Moutinho and veteran Thomas Almeida. “Suga” is 6-1 in the UFC since being signed off of the Contender Series with four of those wins coming by way of knockout.
O’Malley’s striking skills have placed him in the discussion of who is the UFC’s best boxer though he has plenty of positive things to say about his peers.
“I was impressed by both their performances,” O’Malley said. “Cory had a really good performance too. Petr, he’s just so good at adapting and winning those later rounds. He’s definitely up there for pound-for-pound I think skillset-wise and I’m excited for Aljo and Petr to go out there and establish who is the champ.”
“I think Aljo’s gonna have to go in there with a different style or a different mindset, gameplan,” O’Malley continued when asked who will win a yet-to-be-booked rematch between Yan and Sterling. “He kind of went out there and emptied his tank early and I think now going into that fight he knows he’s not going to be able to take out Petr that way, he’s not going to be able to go outwrestle him and just do that. I’m gonna go with Petr, but Aljo he’s legit, he’s the real deal. He’s the champ, ranked No. 1 spot, whatever, but he’s up there. He’s legitimate and I don’t think it’s an easy fight for Petr. I think Petr will probably get the job done this time.”
Of more immediate concern to O’Malley is his upcoming bout against Raulian Paiva, which opens Saturday’s UFC 269 main card. A win over Paiva will set O’Malley up what could be a potentially massive 2022 campaign and he already has a lineup of rivals looking to take some of his shine.
Recently, his name has become tied to fast-rising bantamweight contender Adrian Yanez. He’d like to see Yanez elevate his trash talk game, but otherwise he sees Yanez as one of the names he could face in the first quarter of next year.
"I call him out. He stuttered and didn't really know what to say."@SugaSeanMMA tells @arielhelwani a fight against Adrian Yanez in March "might make more sense" than other options #TheMMAHour— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) December 6, 2021
▶️ https://t.co/s0j8cIVEiV pic.twitter.com/GBEbZphLYw
“I called him out and he just stuttered,” O’Malley said. “He didn’t really know what to say, he was trying to talk sh*t while saying I had really cool knockouts. So I think my first impression of when he got asked about that was he said that I want to fight ranked opponents — which is completely a lie, I never said I want to fight a ranked opponent — He kind of committed saying he would fight me, so I think that’s up there depending on this finish.
“Rob Font could also be, I thought his performance was really impressive against Jose Aldo. We’ll see, it could be one of those two, but Yanez in March might make more sense. We’ll see.”
Yanez replied to O’Malley’s comments on Twitter, telling him to worry about Paiva, a former flyweight, first.