Rising UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley is not confident that he’ll be able to find a high-drawing dance partner when he reaches the top of the 135-pound division.
O’Malley has established himself as one of the most notable surging names inside the Octagon. While his performance inside the cage have obviously played a major part in that, “Sugar” has also gone some way to perfecting the art of self-marketing, largely through his online presence, which includes streaming and video creating.
That, along with his charge up the bantamweight ladder and lucrative new UFC deal, has left O’Malley staking his claim as the weight class’ biggest draw, something he’ll look to further accentuate with another highlight-reel victory this weekend at UFC 276.
Having rebounded from his one and only professional loss to Marlon Vera in 2020 with a trio of bonus-worthy stoppages last year, O’Malley has found himself at #13 in the bantamweight rankings and with yet another featured spot on a notable PPV card.
This time, the Montana native has the chance to move further towards contention against the #10-ranked Pedro Munhoz. If he leaves Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena this Saturday with a 16th professional win, it stands to reason that O’Malley will only be one or two more triumphs away from the gold.
And during UFC 276 media day on Wednesday, talk turned towards a rise to the top that O’Malley sees as inevitable. But when he looks up towards the championship landscape, “Sugar” and his business acumen aren’t best pleased at what they see.
When asked which top bantamweight would present the biggest fight for him, O’Malley provided a fairly damning assessment of his 135-pound peers and their drawing power.
“Numbers-wise? Pay-per-view? Honestly, nobody in the bantamweight division really (sells). Aljo [Aljamain Sterling] don’t sell sh*t, to be honest,” O’Malley said. “Cody (Garbrandt) has lost like, 14 fights in a row. He would probably be the big one four years ago. Dominick Cruz like, kind of, probably sells a little bit. José Aldo would probably be bigger, but maybe not in the United States.
“I don’t know, maybe TJ (Dillashaw)? TJ could probably sell pretty well. I think the me versus ‘Chito’ [Marlon Vera] rematch would be big, just because of the drama that’s been behind that,” O’Malley continued. “I think me versus anybody could be a big fight, but who’s the guy on the other side that’s gonna help really, really do like, a million? I don’t think there’s anybody in the division right now.”
The herd of potential big title opponents for O’Malley will also likely be thinned in August, with two of the names mentioned, “Chito” Vera and Cruz, set to square off in the main event of UFC San Diego.
Nevertheless, before looking ahead, O’Malley has his toughest test to pass this weekend at UFC 276. But should he dispatch ultra-durable perennial contender Munhoz, we’ll no doubt be a big step closer to O’Malley mixing it up with names like Sterling and Dillashaw.
Who do you think is the biggest draw in the UFC bantamweight division?