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Brandon Royval explains how watching Sean O’Malley fights has helped him prepare for UFC Vegas 46

UFC Fight Night: Pantoja v Royval Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Brandon Royval always brings excitement, and a bit of chaos to all of his fights — which has shown to be both successful and a detriment during his UFC career.

Royval will look to bounce back from consecutive stoppage losses when he faces Rogerio Bontorin this Saturday at UFC Vegas 46. Tied for No. 8 in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, Royval hopes to take his in-fight focus to a different level, focusing on quality over quantity. One fighter he has looked to in that department during camp is surging UFC bantamweight Sean O’Malley, who has been able to accomplish that quite well over his last several fights.

“That’s a great person to pick out specifically, because he’s so smart now, just methodically picking people apart,” Royval told MMA Fighting on We Got Next. “He’s probably the main person I’ve watched during this camp, just over and over again. I’m just taking notes and taking stuff away from him, because that kid is just so sophisticated. It’s just so methodical and it’s great to watch.”

Royval burst onto the UFC scene when he signed with the promotion to fight former title challenger Tim Elliott at UFC on ESPN 9 in May 2020. After a scramble-fest of a first round, Royval submitted Elliott in the second round. The former LFA champion returned to action a few months later against Kai Kara-France at UFC 253 and picked up another submission victory in a wild fight to earn a spot in a No. 1 contender fight later in the year.

Royval, who entered the bout with an injured shoulder that eventually required surgery, was stopped by now-champion Brandon Moreno in the first round at UFC 255. The 29-year-old then lost his lone 2021 bout via submission to Alexandre Pantoja.

While the year didn’t go the way he’d hoped, Royval was able to find some sunshine behind the clouds in terms of his mentality as a fighter.

“This is a great year for it to be my year,” Royval said. “As soon as 2021 was over, it was like, kiss this one goodbye; 2020 was awesome, 2021 was a lot of waiting around and growing the mind state than anything. Right now, it’s just picking back up where I left off.

“You’ve seen me fight, I’m usually a big ball of stress, a bit chaotic, and a little bit all over the place. I’ll give myself one thing, it’s that I work really hard. But I feel like I don’t have as much focus work, and that was a big emphasis on this camp — just being focused. Not focused in the sense of partying and things around me, but when I show up to the gym on a Saturday or Sunday, I don’t need to go run 12 miles, or whatever it is to ease my anxiety.

“I’m working on specific things, very detailed things, and making that a point to work on throughout the day. I usually deal with, ‘Oh, I have a fight, I have to do a million things.’ No, I just need to do one thing. I’ve got to work on one thing and focus on that one thing. It’s a lot easier on my body, honestly, but it’s a lot easier on my mind as well.”

The Factory X standout has leaned quite a bit from his head coach Marc Montoya to help with his mental and physical balance ahead of the matchup with Bontorin.

Royval is well aware that he has a difficult time focusing on individual tasks. Not only that, he has had troubles keeping his focus on tasks until the very end. When he sees a proverbial finish line, he wants to cross it as quickly as possible. But certain training days with Montoya have made him realize there’s more to life than sprinting over that line.

“That happens a lot in my fights, too — I need to get busy,” Royval explained. “I’m doing a lot more busy work than I need to do when I fight. I can dial it back a bit, throw the better shots instead of landing 100 shots, or landing as many shots as possible.

“I’ll credit Coach Marc, because I was telling him that I wanted to work on my balance for this fight, and be more balanced of a fighter mentally. Like, literally balanced. He had me walk around the edge of the gym — and it was this cool metaphoric moment — and I’m walking around the perimeter the entire time, and as I’m reaching the end, and I’m staying kind of focused, and we’re almost there and I’m rushing the end, kind of falling off, which is where I mess up the most.

“Always at the end, I would rush. And he goes, ‘You need to stay focused, one step at a time, especially when we’re getting close to the finish. Like the Pantoja fight, you’re close to the end, you almost have this guy out of there, and you’re rushing instead of taking one step at a time. You’re dropping the ball at the end.’ I don’t think he meant for it to be this metaphoric thing, or maybe he did have this Yoda mindset, but he was able to break down a physical problem I was having and a mental problem I was having. It was a cool moment, but also an eye-opening moment.”

Royval’s opponent, Bontorin, will look to pick up his second straight victory on Saturday. After losses to Ray Borg and Kara-France, Bontorin scored his third octagon win over Matt Schnell at UFC 262 this past May.

Winning is certainly the goal for Royval, but he wants to show that he’s more than a surefire “Fight of the Night” nominee as a competitor.

“I think about it all day,” Royval stated. “I can finish this guy a million different ways. I see this fight playing out a million different ways, for sure. And it’ll play out on what he does: If he comes out super aggressive, then he’s going to melt himself. I’m going to whoop his ass quick. But I want to pick him apart, I want to be smarter, and I want to gain a little bit of knowledge. I want to gain time in the UFC octagon, and I want to show and gain maturity as a fighter.

“And if I get to a third round, I’ll just knock him the f*ck out.”