Fan favorite ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley is mere days away from the biggest fight in his mixed martial arts career.
On August 19, the No. 2 ranked contender will head to Boston for a highly anticipated title tilt with reigning bantamweight world champion, Aljamain Sterling. The bout will headline the promotion’s return to Bean Town and pit two of MMA’s most polarizing figures together for a can’t-miss clash.
Ahead of his long-awaited return to the Octagon, O’Malley appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss his mindset going into the most important fight of his life.
“To be honest, not really,” O’Malley responded when asked if he was feeling any pre-fight jitters. “I feel like I’ve always had… All my fights have been big fights,” O’Malley said. “All my fights have been a lot of media. A lot of hype around them so I don’t really feel like is much different other than it is five rounds, which is a big deal. Two extra rounds. That’s the biggest difference really.”
By the time O’Malley steps into TD Garden, it will have been almost a year removed from his split decision win over Petr Yan at UFC 280. During the time away, ‘Sugar’ has kept busy in the gym, knowing his next fight would be for UFC gold.
“It doesn’t even feel like it’s been that long, to be honest,” O’Malley continued. It was just back to work. Back to training. Back to trying to improve. I’m 28 years old and I feel like I’ve still got a long time in this game. Right now I’m just trying to keep my head down and improve. Obviously, I knew I was going to fight the winner of Henry [Cejudo] and Aljo so I wasn’t really messing around. I was in the gym trying to get better, but yeah. It doesn’t even feel like it’s been that long.”
"He’s cutting a lot of weight and that plays a role in the shots you can take. I plan on going out there and delivering the shots that he can’t take.”
Sean O'Malley plans to put Aljamain Sterling's "lights out" 💡 #TheMMAHour
— MMA Fighting (@MMAFighting) August 9, 2023
There is No Love Lost Between Sean O’Malley and Aljamain Sterling
Shifting gears from himself to his opponent, we quickly learn that there is no love lost between Sean O’Malley and the reigning bantamweight champ.
Initially, ‘Funkmaster’ had lobbied for the fight to go down in September, but according to Aljamain Sterling, the promotion pushed hard for him to accept the August date, giving him a relatively short three-month turnaround time. Since then, Sterling has expressed frustration over having to fight through lingering injuries on a regular basis. However, O’Malley is not entirely convinced that Sterling has nearly as many injuries as he lets on.
“You look at him, you hear him talk and you go, ‘Oh, he’s not stupid,’ but then you [see] some of the things he tweets and you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe he is stupid.’ Him saying August was too soon and then saying, ‘F*ck it, let’s just do it in July.’ But I don’t know if he knows his months so maybe he just got those two confused.
“But yeah, he’s claimed to have all these serious injuries. If he had all these serious injuries before he even fought Henry, then he goes to a 25-minute war with Henry and then accepts the fight against me on August 19. I don’t really know what to believe. I don’t really care. It doesn’t affect me whether he’s injured. I’m gonna have the camp I’m gonna have and I’m gonna go out there and do what I need to do.”
O’Malley rides into his first UFC title fight with an impressive 8-1 record inside the Octagon, 16-1 overall. Earning his way into the promotion on Dana White’s Contender Series, ‘Sugar’ rattled off four-straight wins before suffering his first career loss against Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera after sustaining an injury early in the opening round. He bounced back, going on another four-fight run that saw him defeat former bantamweight champion Petr Yan to earn his title fight.
On August 19, O’Malley will try to do what no man has in the last six years and have his hand raised against one of the greatest 135-pounders in the history of the sport.
“He has what I want. He has the belt. It’s as simple as that,” O’Malley said.