A volatile situation could have easily ended much worse after Sean O’Malley was invited into the octagon for a post-fight faceoff with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling after UFC 288 concluded.
It didn’t take long for O’Malley and Sterling to start exchanging some rather heated words with UFC President Dana White and other UFC officials trying to keep the lid on a powder keg that was ready to explode. Things nearly turned from bad to worse after Sterling’s teammate and fellow UFC bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili actually grabbed O’Malley’s jacket away from him before jumping on the cage to pose with it himself.
O’Malley then confronted Dvailishvili, which then led to Sterling also getting involved before order was finally restored.
Following the event, White took the blame for allowing that to happen while conceding that O’Malley coming into the cage just seconds after Sterling had his hand raised was probably just asking for trouble no matter how much promotion that moment served a future fight between them.
“I’ve had better ideas than what I did tonight,” White said at the UFC 288 post-fight press conference. “Not a great idea but yes, [Sean O’Malley is] next. It was a bad idea [to bring him in the cage].”
For his part, O’Malley obviously didn’t speak too highly of Dvalishvili, especially after his jacket was taken and that incident could have easily erupted into an even uglier altercation.
“Merab, he took the jacket, he’s doing little Russian things that they do,” O’Malley said during the UFC 288 post-fight show. “Merab’s just a little goofball. I don’t take that dude too serious.”
It’s entirely possible that O’Malley might have to start paying attention to Dvalishvili, especially if he’s able to claim the bantamweight title in his eventual fight with Sterling.
Most consider Dvalishvili the No. 1 contender in the division, although he’s emphatically stated that he would never fight Sterling so he’s effectively stuck in limbo as long as his teammate has the title. If O’Malley beats Sterling, it would remedy that particular issue and Dvalisvhili would likely be next in line.
As for the fight on Saturday night, O’Malley insisted that he believed Henry Cejudo actually deserved the win despite the former two-division champion ultimately losing a split decision to Sterling.
“I thought Henry won 3-2 maybe 4-1,” O’Malley said. “I was actually pretty surprised they gave it to Aljo. But Henry just lucked out because I was going to put his lights out for good. He got lucky.”
With that fight completed, O’Malley is anxious to get moving on his own title shot, although he believes that Sterling and Cejudo were already competing for the chance to face him just because they both know he’s the biggest matchup possible for either of them.
“They weren’t even fighting for the belt tonight,” O’Malley said. “They were fighting for the chance to fight me. Obviously, the champions get pay-per-view money. They could really give a crap less about the belt.
“That fight tonight was to see who gets to fight me. I was the belt tonight and Aljo got a gifted decision.”
As far as when O’Malley might get that opportunity to face Sterling, White said that he’s currently targeting the upcoming August pay-per-view for the next bantamweight title fight. Ideally, White added that he would like that fight to happen in Boston.