Sean O’Malley doesn’t see why Raul Rosas Jr. has to rush back into action after suffering the first setback of his young career.
The 18-year-old Rosas lost a unanimous decision to Christian Rodriguez this past Saturday at UFC 287, four months after making history as the youngest fighter in UFC history. He was signed off of Dana White’s Contender Series at 17, with a 7-0 record since making his pro debut in November 2021.
Breaking down the fight on his TimboSugarShow podcast, O’Malley thinks there are plenty of logical challenges for Rosas in the UFC’s bantamweight division, but that he may be better served going back to the lab for an extended period of time.
“There’s definitely guys in the division that he can go out there and beat, but I don’t even think he needs to out there and get a win, he needs to go out there and get better,” O’Malley said. “Two years, take two years off. Lift. F****** grind. Just get good. ... Just don’t fight for a couple of years, get good.
“F****** improve everywhere, come back, you’re 20 years old. He wants to be the youngest champ, maybe that humbled him. It’s not not realistic. Take two years off, you’re 20, still have a possibility.”
Rosas has stated on multiple occasions that his goal is to become the youngest UFC champion in history and he’s given himself a substantial head start. The record is currently held by Jon Jones, who became UFC light heavyweight champion in 2011 at 23 (and 242 days).
While Rodriguez only has two more pro fights than Rosas, he’s been competing as an amateur since 2016 and made appearances in Bellator, the LFA, and CFFC before eventually making his way to the UFC. O’Malley opined that having more of that kind of season could have benefited Rosas before he was rocketed into the spotlight.
“I called it,” O’Malley said. “I said Christian Rodriguez is going to be too much for him. [Rosas is] 18 years old. He’s 18. That’s so young, dude. I was f****** j****** off four times a day when I was 18. So I called that, I said I think Christian Rodriguez is going to be too much, trains at a good f****** gym. It doesn’t mean Raul Rosas Jr.’s done, but it’s like, where do you go from here?
“Maybe you don’t even sign him at that age. You let him fight for two or three years, rack up some more wins, this kid’s coming in 15-0, undefeated. The UFC, that’s the risk they’re willing to take. ‘Hey, we’re going to have a potential star.’ He still can be. I don’t know.”
O’Malley also questioned whether Rosas is training with fighters that are too accommodating to his grappling-heavy style. At UFC 287, Rosas’ strategy was too continually shoot in and initiate grapples with Rodriguez, and while he had some success, his energy rapidly waned and Rodriguez clearly pulled ahead by the end of the 15-minute contest.
A highly touted bantamweight himself when he was signed from the Contender Series at 22, O’Malley believes Rosas’ loss is cause for some self-reflection, at the very least.
“He was saying, ‘I can beat every bantamweight in the division,’” O’Malley said. “He said he grappled with Aljamain Sterling and got the best of him. Maybe humbled and maybe not—I mean, it had to have, you can’t go out there and be like, ‘I beat everyone,’ you just lost.”