While the end result was controversial, Sean
O’Malley took a massive step forward in his evolution on
The Dana White’s Contender Series alum defeated former bantamweight
champion Petr Yan via
split decision in a featured bout at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on
Saturday night. The victory could potentially set O’Malley up for a
title shot against reigning champion Aljamain
Sterling. At the time, however, another fight was the furthest
thing from O’Malley’s mind.
“It’s hard to make fights right after. I’m sore, I have a headache,
I’m tired. I don’t want to fight anyone. I want to go home and see
my princess,” O’Malley said at the UFC 280 post-fight press
He then acknowledged that his time at the top of the bantamweight
division is on the horizon.
“It’s inevitable,” he said. “I turn 28 [on Sunday], and I’m going
to be in this sport for a long time. People want me to be champ, so
it’s going to happen sooner than later.”
Regardless of whether you thought O’Malley deserved to get the nod
on the scorecards, it was clear that “Sugar” showed improvement in
several areas against Yan, who was a significant favorite heading
into the matchup. In his first test, O’Malley was hurt by leg kicks
against Marlon Vera
before falling via first-round TKO, and more recently, a matchup
Munhoz ended in a no contest due before it could completely
“‘Kick his legs,’ was the first one. Now it’s ‘You can’t just kick
his legs and take him down,’” O’Malley said. “Petr kicked my legs
and took me down, and still [I] won. So yeah, I’m answering
questions little by little.”
Yan struggled with O’Malley’s rangy striking, but the Russian
countered by mixing in takedowns with his attacks, which made for a
closely-contested bout. To his credit, O’Malley defended multiple
shots and was able to return to his feet when he was planted on the
“He was as good as I thought he was,” O’Malley said. “He was the
No. 1 guy in the world. Pretty sure he was in the Top 15
pound-for-pound rankings. The dude’s a killer.”
When all was said and done, O’Malley and Yan received “Fight of the
Night” honors for their memorable scrap. While he would prefer a
cleaner performance, O’Malley knows it was important to show the
world that he can dig deep to win a fight.
“I don’t want to get hit ever,” O’Malley said. “It’s not healthy.
It’s not good to get punched on the head. It’s not good for you to
have headaches. Ideally, I go in there and not get hit. But I think
it makes it even sweeter, the story — I really had to show my
“I got to go deep. I had to go somewhere mentally and physically
I’ve never been before, and that’s what happens when you fight the
best guys in the world.”
‘It’s Inevitable’ That I Become UFC Bantamweight Champion
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