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Aljamain Sterling promises to fold ‘frail’ Sean O’Malley ‘in half like a lawn chair’

Aljamain Sterling didn’t have a lot of reasons to say nice things about Sean O’Malley before they went nose-to-nose at UFC 288. But after they nearly got into a melee over a Michael Jackson jacket, he had even fewer reasons at the event’s post-fight presser.

With O’Malley next up, “Funkmaster” used his solo mic time to predict doom for the colorfully-maned UFC bantamweight and gamer.

“My thoughts on Sean O’Malley is that motherf***** is frail,” Sterling said after outpointing former two-division champ Henry Cejudo at UFC 288. “Frail. You think if I could take down a short stocky guy like Henry, who’s actually a gold medalist and has good takedown defense, what am I gonna do to Sean O’Malley? Let’s be honest here guys.

“Yeah, he’s been promised a title shot. He opted not to take the title shot and gave Henry a chance to come back and chase history. I beat Henry. Now there’s no more running.”

O’Malley pitched an interim title fight with Cejudo when a lingering bicep injury delayed Sterling’s meeting with “Triple C.” The UFC ended up waiting to make the fight, and O’Malley balked at the idea of playing backup fighter.

After Sterling emerged victorious at UFC 288, O’Malley was invited into the octagon at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The ensuing chaos prompted UFC President Dana White to declare it a “bad idea.”

For Sterling, though, it might have been just the ticket, motivationally speaking.

“You either want to swim with the big boys, or you don’t,” he said of O’Malley’s decision to wait for a title shot. “If not, get the f*** out of the pool, go up a weight class or some s***. Don’t keep sitting around here, talking and barking and not saddling up and taking the opportunities that are given. This is what the sport is all about. You take the opportunities that are given to you.

“I guarantee you: We step in there, I think I fold that man in half in one round. Same thing I did to [Cory] Sandhagen. Go out there, pressure forward. He’s gonna use this footwork. I’m gonna cut off the cage, like I was just talking about. Eventually, he’s gonna be on his back foot. Let him throw a stupid kick that I’m going to catch, I’m going to bodylock him, and I’m gonna fold him in half like a lawn chair, and that’s gonna be the fight. ... Signed, sealed, delivered.”

Despite two title defenses, Sterling was a betting underdog heading into his fight with Cejudo, who returned from a three-year layoff to reclaim the bantamweight title and set up a featherweight showdown with champ Alexander Volkanovski. In a closely contested fight, Sterling’s early work overcame Cejudo’s work late in the fight with two 48-47 scores, though one just dissented against the champ with a 48-47 tally.

Sterling, a Long Island, N.Y., native, was still greeting boo-birds on home turf when O’Malley told him he “looked like s***.” His teammate Merab Dvalishvili didn’t take kindly to that and stole O’Malley’s jacket in response.

“I was in a different world,” Sterling said of the exchange. “I was ready to jump on his back if I needed to. I think I might have tapped him and turned him around, or I don’t even know what I did. I was just like, ‘Yo, don’t f*** with my boy. That’s pretty much it.”

O’Malley was not rooting for Sterling to win on Saturday, but the champ said that made sense considering the choice of matchups.

“It’s like, you want to fight the guy who’s 5-4 – you’re 5-11, you’re a better striker,” Sterling said. “You’re longer, your rangier. It just makes more sense for him to fight Henry. It gives him the best opportunity to become a UFC champion. Styles make fights, physicality makes fight, and that’s what people have to do. You have to analyze the situation and break it down, and I think sometimes people just forget about all those things, and they just look at, ‘Oh, he’s so good. The flash, his hair is colorful, and he smokes weed, dude.’

“I smoke weed. Like, what the hell are we talking about?”

So far, O’Malley’s habits have been far more endearing to UFC fans, which is no doubt why the Contender Series vet has quickly risen up the ranks of bantamweights. But the other reason is because he’s won several pivotal fights, including a recent decision over ex-champ Petr Yan.

Sterling might be confused about the appeal of O’Malley, but he’s not delusional about what’s facing him in a fight he hopes will take place in September.

“He could easily land a 1-2 that stings me on the chin and puts me right down,” Sterling said. “It’s a fist fight. Anything could happen in there, and I understand that. The last time I underestimated somebody, I was staring at the lights, and I don’t remember staring at the lights. I woke up in the hospital.

“I’ve been humbled by this sport, and I think O’Malley needs to be humbled again. I guess him breaking his foot against [Maron Vera] wasn’t enough for him, so I’ve got to do it again to him.”

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