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Sean O’Malley ‘100 percent’ expects title shot with win over Petr Yan, favors T.J. Dillashaw in Aljamain Sterling fight

UFC 280: Press Conference Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Sean O’Malley sees a fight with Petr Yan as his ticket to the top of the division.

O’Malley and Yan are set to fight at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 22, a bout that pits the popular “Sugar” against a former UFC bantamweight champion. At a press conference in London on Friday for the upcoming event, O’Malley spoke about why the Yan bout is so important.

“Obviously, I haven’t gotten to prove [I belong at the top],” O’Malley said. “That Pedro [Munhoz] fight didn’t really end the way I wanted it to. But I think I proved I can hang with the top-10 guys. Jumping up to the No. 1 guy, this is a huge test and I believe I will rise to the occasion.”

He didn’t hesitate when asked if a win over Yan earns him a title shot.

“One-hundred percent,” O’Malley said.

The top of the bantamweight division is as busy as any in the UFC, with champion Aljamain Sterling expected to defend his title against two-time champion T.J. Dillashaw also at UFC 280, and key contender matchups featuring Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili and Marlon Vera vs. Dominick Cruz — all four of whom in the top 15 of MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — set to take place in the coming months.

O’Malley was prompted to give his assessment on the possibilities ahead of him, starting with who he thinks will win the upcoming bantamweight title fight.

“Interesting fight,” O’Malley said. “If I had to guess, I’d say T.J. can get the job done, but you can’t count ‘Aljo’ out.”

The Vera vs. Cruz fight features a previous O’Malley nemesis in “Chito” Vera, the first fighter to hand O’Malley a loss. O’Malley has repeatedly disputed the result as he suffered a leg injury during the contest, but a potential rematch remains intriguing to him.

“Possibly,” O’Malley said of a second fight with Vera. “If I get through Petr, I believe I’ve earned this title shot. I think me vs. Chito for my first title defense sounds pretty nice. I’ll get that fight back regardless. Going to be doing this sport for the next 10 years, I’ll get that one back one of these days.”

When the possibility of a bout with Aldo was raised, O’Malley deferred to the former featherweight king while also considering a path that could lead to them someday battling for five rounds in a championship bout.

“I think he said he wants to beat Merab and then fight for the title,” O’Malley said. “I wouldn’t mind beating up Petr and then letting Jose fight for the title and then fighting the winner of those two. Jose’s a legend and he deserves to fight for that belt.”

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