For some fighters, defeating a former champion and number one contender would be cause to shout from the rooftops that they are now ready for a shot at the title. But Sean O’Malley isn’t “some fighters.”
“The Suga Show” went toe to toe with former UFC bantamweight champ Petr Yan in the night’s featured non-title bout at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi, and came through with a split-decision victory to cement his championship credentials in the UFC’s talent-packed 135-pound division.
The fight was a close, competitive one, and O’Malley admitted after his win that he had to go to placed he’d never been to before in order to fight through adversity and claim the biggest victory of his career.
Speaking at the post-fight press conference, O’Malley said, “I don’t want to get hit, ever. You know? That’s not healthy. It’s not good for you to get punched in the head, you know what I mean? It’s not good to get headaches.
“So ideally, I go in there (and) not get hit, but I think it makes it even sweeter. The story… I got to really show my heart. I had to dig deep. I had to go somewhere, mentally, physically, that I’ve never been before. And that’s what happens when you fight the best guys in the world.”
But he stopped short of demanding to be the next man in line to face reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, as he took a more circumspect view of the night, his performance and his standing in the bantamweight division.
“Yeah, it’s so hard to, like Dana (White) says, it’s hard to make fights that night right after, or the day of.
“I’m sore, I’ve a headache, I’m tired. I don’t want to fight anyone! I want to go home and see my princess.”
And, referring to a title shot, O’Malley said it was a case if when, rather than if.
“You know, it’s inevitable,” he said.
“I turned 28 tomorrow. I’m gonna be in this sport for a long time. The people want want me to be champ, so it’s gonna happen sooner than later.”