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Cody Garbrandt, Sean O’Malley have to be separated after heated exchange during UFC 269 presser

Cody Garbrandt and Sean O’Malley aren’t fighting each other at UFC 269, but you certainly couldn’t tell by the way they went after each other at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference.

Following numerous exchanges through interviews and social media over the past several years, Garbrandt and O’Malley were finally seated just a few feet away from each other on stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

That’s when Garbrandt was asked to respond to O’Malley, since they were finally in the same room together, rather than trading shots over Twitter.

“Listen, this dude, he comes out here, he does his thing, he walks his walk,” Garbrandt said about O’Malley. “Look how he’s dressed, he does the hair. But he’s got different problems than ‘No Love’ problems. He’s got Raulian [Paiva] to my right. Raulian is battle tested in here, way farther than he’s ever been.”

O’Malley didn’t say much in return other than pointing toward Garbrandt’s record.

“He’s won one fight since 2017,” O’Malley said when referencing Garbrandt’s 1-4 record over his past five fights.

That only ratcheted up emotions as Garbrandt started shouting back at O’Malley, picking apart the former Contender Series winner’s résumé.

“That’s a good one, and you haven’t fought anybody,” Garbrandt said. “Who the f*ck have you fought? Look, I can’t be mad at this kid. He understands when he jumps up in competition, his hype goes away. His money goes away. His sponsors go away, ‘cause he’ll get his ass beat straight up.”

While Garbrandt is making his flyweight debut on Saturday in a fight against Kai Kara-France, and O’Malley is facing Raulian Paiva at bantamweight, it still appeared as if the UFC may have missed out on a golden opportunity to book the rivals against each other.

Despite his opponent sitting right next to O’Malley on stage, Garbrandt appeared more than ready to switch around the card and return to 135 pounds for at least one more night.

“I’ll weigh in tomorrow at [125] and fight you at [135] and still kick your ass,” Garbrandt said. “You’re easy work, but I’m not worried about you. I’m focused on Kai Kara France. You’ve got Raulian to worry about.”

O’Malley seemed unimpressed before countering with an offer of his own.

“That’s how stupid you are,” O’Malley said of Garbrandt’s challenge. “Why would you do that? You sound a little worried. Dana [White], can me and Cody square up just for the future?”

At that point, Garbrandt accepted the opportunity to come face-to-face with O’Malley for the first time, as the fighters got up from their seats and Garbrandt charged across the stage for a staredown.

Security quickly rushed onto the stage to keep the fighters separated. It appeared as if Garbrandt and O’Malley conceded to not get physical during the altercation, but there was no chance UFC officials were going to risk it.

Cooler heads prevailed, but Garbrandt didn’t miss an opportunity for one last stab at O’Malley when asked about “The Suga Show” declaring himself the “unranked champion” at bantamweight.

“I just laugh,” Garbrandt said. “I think it’s comical. I think this guy’s a joke, but like I said, I’m not facing him. He’s got Raulian. That’s who he should be focusing on. But hey, he’s got the hype, he’s building up the hype, he’s got the fans behind him, so he’s got to go out there and prove to himself.

“He’s unproven. At the end of the night, he’s still unproven. He’s got a lot to prove in this sport.”

Judging by Garbrandt’s demeanor on Thursday, he might just abandon his move to flyweight for at least one more night if he gets to clash with O’Malley at bantamweight after UFC 269 is finished.