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T.J. Dillashaw doesn’t think Sean O’Malley will become UFC champion

T.J. Dillashaw
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

T.J. Dillashaw has held the UFC bantamweight title twice. He doesn’t see Sean O’Malley winning it once.

During an interview with Submission Radio, Dillashaw was asked about the current 135-pound landscape and specifically whether he thought the popular O’Malley could become UFC champion someday. Dillashaw spoke highly of O’Malley’s promotional talents, but questioned whether the 26-year-old has the in-cage talent to make it all the way to the top.

“I don’t think he’ll become champion,” Dillashaw said (transcription via Denis Shkuratov). “He’s got too many holes and they’re feeding him the right fights ‘cause he’s a huge draw, right? For one, they pumped him up, they put him in the UFC pump-up machine. They can do that to pretty much anyone if you have a little bit of character, if you can talk whatsoever, be a little bit colorful, they’ll pump you up. And then he’s done a good job promoting himself. He’s done a really good job of that. And it takes work, man. When you see these guys that get pumped up, they’re also putting in the hard work, so he does a good job of that.

“But we’ve seen what happened as soon as he fought ‘Chito’ (Marlon Vera). Chito is more of a top-ranked fighter, and he got finished in the first round. I mean, I don’t think that he’ll be champion, but he’s a good draw. Hopefully he can make it far enough to where I could use some of that thunder and get paid off it (laughs).”

In seven UFC appearances, O’Malley (14-1) has suffered just one loss, a first-round TKO defeat to Vera in a fight that also saw O’Malley injured his leg. O’Malley has since disputed the circumstances of the loss and rebounded with back-to-back third-round finishes.

While O’Malley works towards a title opportunity (something he’s in no hurry to do), Dillashaw could be competing for his third UFC title soon depending on how the bantamweight division shakes out over the next few months. Dillashaw returned from a two-year USADA suspension at UFC Vegas 32 in July where he won a split decision over Cory Sandhagen in the main event.

If he becomes champion again, Dillashaw isn’t sure what’s left for him to accomplish, stating only that he’ll fight until it doesn’t make sense for him to do so anymore.

“As long as I’m just driven to be the best,” Dillashaw said when asked how long he expects to continue competing. “As soon as I lose that hunger to do that, there’s no sense, right? As soon as I feel myself slipping and not wanting to wake up and put in those extra hours and don’t feel that drive to be all that I can possibly be in this sport, then that’s what I need the people around me to kind of point that out, I can’t do it myself even.

“Because you see it everyday. Guys fighting way past their prime, fighting way past what they should be doing. And unfortunately, not listening to the people around them or not having the people around them to tell them that. As soon as I lose that drive, I don’t have an exact number set on it because I’ve done that before. I remember telling my wife, ‘I don’t see myself fighting past 35 years old.’ Well, s*it, I’m 35 years old. Obviously, that suspension probably made me want to fight longer, but to see what my body is able to do at this age is quite impressive, so I don’t see myself not wanting to be the best anytime soon.”

Watch Dillashaw’s full interview with Submission Radio here:

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