Following the announcement of his next fight, rising UFC bantamweight star Sean O’Malley is expecting a certain narrative to flip.
In a week that was full of exciting announcement regarding October 22’s UFC 280 pay-per-view, including the confirmation of Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev’s vacant-title fight, one explosive collision in the bantamweight division turned heads.
Having suffered back-to-back defeats to champion Aljamain Sterling, first via disqualification and then by way of split decision, former titleholder Petr Yan has turned to a surging contender sat outside the top 10 as he looks to rebound.
While that man, “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, is yet to notch a victory over a ranked opponent, the Montana native has certainly grown his stardom to a level above most bantamweights — if you ask the man himself, every bantamweight.
Up until this year, O’Malley had followed a steady path up the UFC ladder, recording a trio of wins over Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho, and Raulian Paiva in 2021. Those matchups came while the 27-year-old noted that he wasn’t interested in facing top opposition until his contract better reflected his worth.
While that has perhaps created a widely-believed narrative surrounding his willingness to face high-level opposition, O’Malley expects his next Octagon appearance to turn the tables.
O’Malley Looks Forward To Proving Detractors Wrong
After breaking into the rankings following his first-round knockout win at UFC 269 last December, O’Malley was rewarded with a seemingly lucrative new deal. As he’d predicted, with that came a step up in competition, with “Sugar” facing perennial top-10 contender Pedro Munhoz earlier this month.
Despite that fight ending in a no contest, O’Malley isn’t slowing down, as he prepares to head to Abu Dhabi for a date with the #1-ranked contender. And having also apparently asked the UFC to face the potentially-returning Henry Cejudo, O’Malley expects the narrative that he avoids big names to switch soon enough.
“I asked for (Cejudo), but he’s obviously, with the USADA thing, he’s not eligible, and Petr was up there, too,” O’Malley told Ariel Helwani during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “I would’ve took the (Cejudo) fight, 100%. The narrative of me not wanting to fight these guys has been just a narrative. I can sit here and say it’s not true, but that’s still gonna be the narrative because of the fights I was being offered by the UFC. I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘No, I wanna fight someone tougher for the same amount of money.’ I’m gonna fight those guys, of course.
“So, the narrative now is going to switch to, ‘I will fight anyone in the bantamweight division, the best division in the UFC. And I wanna beat Petr, I wanna become champ, and I wanna defend the belt. That’s gonna be the new narrative, that I will fight anybody.”
Given the widespread shock when the fight was announced, it’s safe to say that not many had predicted that O’Malley would be accelerated into a fight with Yan given his previous rise, which “Sugar” himself had suggested was a better path than the likes of Khamzat Chimaev have followed.
Nevertheless, despite the steep rise in competition, O’Malley has insisted that he’s ready to face “No Mercy,” and has even predicted that he could become the first man to finish the Russian on October 22.
How do you think the fight between Sean O’Malley and Petr Yan will play out at UFC 280?