Sean O’Malley was looking forward to the possibility of fighting Henry Cejudo, even though he thinks the matchup would be easy work.
That matchup likely won’t be happening anytime soon as Cejudo fell just short on the scorecards in his recent comeback fight at UFC 288 against bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Cejudo was returning from a self-imposed three-year hiatus and a win over Sterling would have set him up for another massive fight, possibly against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski or one of the numerous contenders at 135 pounds.
O’Malley has positioned himself as the No. 1 contender at bantamweight after defeating Petr Yan in his most recent outing and he believes it was better that Cejudo lost so as not to end up in O’Malley’s crosshairs.
“I think Henry lucked out,” O’Malley said on The MMA Hour. “He got lucky he lost that fight because I do believe I would have put Henry’s lights out. He stands there with his chin up. I’m sure you saw Conor [McGregor’s] tweet and stuff, that was absolutely hilarious because Henry, he thinks he’s just this—He has a good résumé, he’s really good, don’t get me wrong, but he thinks he invented play sparring. He thinks he’s just this guy that is the incredible guy, it’s just annoying. So I would have loved to sleep that dude.
“He walks out there with his chin up, he fights like he’s 6-foot-3, he’s not. He fights like he’s a tall guy and you think being as smart as he is he would have a little bit better style, but I was just fired up in there.”
The McGregor tweet that O’Malley refers to featured a brief video clip of McGregor celebrating Sterling’s won and mocking Cejudo’s fighting stance. That tweet was sent out (and later deleted) shortly after the conclusion of UFC 288 and Cejudo later fired back at McGregor by claiming that he “don’t got s*** on my résumé.”
O’Malley seconds McGregor’s criticism of Cejudo’s striking style.
“He did well, I honestly thought he had won the fight, but it’s just like, maybe ‘Captain’ [Eric Albarracin] told him to stand like that?’ O’Malley said. “I don’t know if he thought of it himself, but for someone that speaks so highly of themselves, you think he would have a little bit better style being his kind of build.”
With Sterling having knocked off Cejudo, T.J. Dillashaw, and Petr Yan in his first three UFC title defenses, a meeting with O’Malley seems like the logical continuation of this run. All parties seem to agree as O’Malley entered the cage to face off with Sterling during the champion’s post-fight interview and both sound confident that the fight will happen this year.
While O’Malley is convinced that a fight with Cejudo would do bigger box office than one with Sterling, he’s confident in his own drawing power regardless of who he shares the octagon with.
“I think [Cejudo is the bigger money fight], but now that Aljo beat Henry, me vs. Aljo is still a really big fight,” O’Malley said. “I think me vs. Henry is a little bit bigger fight, but not much difference. Those guys are similar draws. I’m very curious what the pay-per-views did for this fight. I think me vs. Aljo could double it—Or I could double it, sorry.”
There are plenty of reasons O’Malley might enjoy fighting Cejudo somewhere down the road, whether it’s because he feels it’s a favorable matchup or that he sees the upside in possibly picking up a win over a combat sports legend who has won Olympic gold and won UFC titles at flyweight and bantamweight.
However, if you ask O’Malley, his motivation to square off with Cejudo isn’t that complicated.
“You can’t tell me you wouldn’t like to punch him in the face,” O’Malley said. “He’s just got that face. That big head, short arms, short legs, he’s 5-foot-4, he fights with his chin higher than—I don’t know, there’s just something about Henry I would have loved to smack him.
“Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line somewhere if he doesn’t quit again, then we can make that happen.”