Sean O’Malley will not serve as the backup fighter for Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo.
In May, Sterling defends his bantamweight title against former champion Cejudo in the main event of UFC 288. As the presumptive next title challenger, many believed O’Malley would assume the role of backup fighter if something happens to either Sterling or Cejudo. However, speaking on his TimboSugarShow, O’Malley revealed that will not be the case.
“I was really planning on being backup for Henry-Aljo,” O’Malley said. “Now we’re at the point where it is so — go and doing a camp, five five-[minute rounds]. Planning on a fight is hard enough to do knowing you have a fight, but knowing you’re probably not going to fight, I can’t train the same way. And I don’t feel like I’m in a position where I’m like, ‘Well, it’s my only opportunity, I need to be a backup.’ I was trying, but now I’m to the point where I’m like, f*** that. If one of those dorks pull out, reschedule it.”
O’Malley is one of the biggest names in the UFC, and in October, the 28-year-old scored the biggest win of his career, taking a split decision over former champion Petr Yan at UFC 280. That win vaulted O’Malley into the No. 1 spot in the UFC bantamweight rankings (he has since been surpassed by Sterling’s teammate Merab Dvalishvili) and set “Sugar” up for a title shot.
Given that, O’Malley says he’s content to wait for that time to come in earnest so he can properly prepare.
“I need a real eight weeks where I know I’m fighting,” O’Malley said. “It’s just too hard to go be that disciplined. You can’t be that disciplined all the time. There’s a certain level of disciplined you can be in camp, and that’s why you feel like a f****** superhuman when you’re in there, because the way you’ve lived the last eight weeks, whatever it is.
“But I’m to the point where, they’re five weeks out to the fight, if I got the call I’d be like, ‘I’m not ready to do five f****** fives.’ I haven’t been doing every possible thing that I could be doing. So I’m pulling out from backup fighter. I never officially was, but breaking news.”
UFC 288 takes place on May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.