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Sean O’Malley expects to ‘shock the world’ against Aljamain Sterling in Boston

Sean O’Malley is one win away from making history.

“Sugar” is expected to be the next challenger for bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, who successfully defended his belt at UFC 288 via a split nod over the returning Henry Cejudo. During Sterling’s post-fight interview, O’Malley entered the cage and engaged in a trash talk-filled faceoff with Sterling to set up their prospective bout.

A cageside view gave O’Malley an up-close look at Sterling and while he has great respect for the champ’s abilities, he expects to beat the odds when they eventually meet.

“If anything, I would say his gas tank,” O’Malley answered on The MMA Hour when asked what impressed him most about Sterling. “Keeping up with Henry for five rounds, that was more impressive than anything. I understand how dangerous of an opponent Aljo is. I know his strengths, I know his weaknesses, he could be considered the greatest bantamweight of all time right now with his resume, so I know what I’m getting into. I’m very excited for the challenge and I do believe I have the ability and the skills to go out there and shock the world because I do believe I’m going to be a massive underdog.”

“I think when you look at who he’s beat and how his style is, very grappling heavy, I haven’t really fought a really, really good grappler yet inside the octagon,” O’Malley continued. “Obviously, I train with absolute killers. I understand where the strengths and weaknesses are and I do believe I have the skills and I think the outside perspective will be Aljo’s going go out there and do what he did to Cory [Sandhagen]. We’ve got kind of similar body types, so I’ve just got to last longer than 12 seconds, than Cory, and it’s a win. Just jokes.”

Given Sterling’s title defense streak and O’Malley’s popularity, a clash between the two is expected to be one of the most highly anticipated bouts in the history of the 135-pound division. O’Malley us unbeaten in his past five fights and is coming off of a thrilling split decision win over two-time UFC champion Petr Yan.

Despite his star power, O’Malley said he has not been guaranteed pay-per-view points for a potential title fight with Sterling.

“It sucks because the champ obviously gets the pay-per-view points that I wasn’t able to get that on my terms and say, ‘Hey, you know what? Let me get a little piece of that,’” O’Malley said. “So I’m not really—It’s different. If I do get that, maybe I try to push it a little more, but at the end of the day I want it to do really well. Aljo’s going to send me a little percentage of it, he said. I think it’ll still do really well. As far as a number to put on it, I’ll say just twice as good as whatever this one did.”

“I’m making a good amount of money, so I’m not too worried about it,” O’Malley added. “I’m getting paid, so I’ll be alright without that. I’ve got to go out there and still do what I’ve got to do and that’s take Aljo out and then we’ll go from there.”

O’Malley later clarified that he was joking about Sterling offering him a cut of the pay-per-view profits.

He also maintained a light attitude before squaring off with Sterling as he found himself seated with Sterling’s family at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. In contrast to the tense confrontation that was to come, O’Malley ended up supporting Sterling somewhat because he was watching alongside Sterling’s mother.

“I know how my mom gets during the fights, so I was kind of trying to comfort her, ‘Aljo’s going to do good,’” O’Malley said. “She’s a nice lady, so it wasn’t awkward. I’ve got to beat up her son, what, am I going to be mean to her too?”

O’Malley is determined to make his showdown with Sterling happen in Boston, which is expected to host a UFC event on Aug. 19. Sterling said he’s targeting a September return, but O’Malley doesn’t see why Sterling should be allowed to call the shots in this situation.

“If they get the venue, if they get Boston, I think the UFC would like to bring me to Boston,” O’Malley said. “I don’t know how much of a choice Aljamain has. He’s the champ, I’m the No. 1 guy, he didn’t get injured, he’s good. Regardless, I think I’m fighting in Boston. Whether he wants to show up and make the biggest payday of his life, that’s up to him.”

It’s especially important for O’Malley to return to action given that he hasn’t fought since this past October, where he beat Yan at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi. Besides, since Sterling is so confident that he’ll make short work of him, O’Malley feels that Sterling may as well just sign the contract for the fight and worry about preparation later.

“I’m excited, I’m ready to get back in there,” O’Malley said. “I think September, who knows where that card’s going to be in September? I think August makes sense. That’s 15 weeks, three and a half months, that’s damn near four months. That’s plenty of time for him to take a couple of weeks off, get back in there.

“He did say he’s going to fold me in one round, so I don’t even know why he would train. Maybe take 14 weeks off, train fight week, and try to get the job done there.”

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