Newly crowned UFC bantamweight world champion Sean O’Malley believes he could be the second coming of Conor McGregor.
When you think of the pioneers of mixed martial arts, the name Conor McGregor undoubtedly comes to mind. Whether you love him or you hate him, you can’t deny that the Irishman has impacted the sport like no man before him, and so far, no other fighter has been able to catch that same lightning in a bottle. But that certainly won’t stop Sean O’Malley from trying.
‘Sugar’ went from standout to bonafide superstar in August, scoring a highlight-reel-worthy second-round knockout of Aljamain Sterling to capture the bantamweight title at UFC 292. It was a massive moment for the man who one day hopes to put the entire UFC on his back and lift it to unseen heights.
During an appearance on The FIGHT with Teddy Atlas, O’Malley spoke about the influence Conor McGregor left on both himself and the sport and how he plans to carry on that legacy by becoming the next big thing in MMA.
“Before Conor got into the UFC, I kind of had this vision in my head that I wanted to come in and take over at the next level because I didn’t feel the UFC, at least from when I started watching, ever had someone come in and be that guy,” O’Malley said. “So for me watching Conor do it, it was legendary. I’m probably the biggest Conor fan in the world. I’ve watched every interview. Every fight. Everything Conor’s ever said, I’ve watched and I’ve studied.
“I’m a massive fan of Conor so I definitely took inspiration from Conor. He took it to the next level and I do truly believe that I can be the next guy to take it to the next level. UFC has grown massively in the last three years. From when COVID started I think Dana said they grew about 40 percent. They damn near doubled since COVID started and Conor hasn’t really fought since then.
“Conor was a massive superstar and now they’ve grown 40 percent since then so my opportunity to be [even] more viewed is huge. I do think I can take it to the next level as far as a lot of different things.”
The Striking Similarities of Sean O’Malley and Conor McGregor
Even before O’Malley had the bantamweight title firmly strapped around his waist, fight fans were already comparing his stunning knockout of Aljamain Sterling to Conor McGregor’s legendary KO of featherweight great Jose Aldo at UFC 196. Side-by-side, the similarities are incredible.
O’Malley > Mcgregor pic.twitter.com/4uFZBqt8pg
— P4P#1 Volk (@TopMMAContent) August 20, 2023
Asked by Atlas if McGregor had any influence on his skills as a counter-striker, O’Malley revealed that counter-punching has always come naturally to him, but admits that the Irishman likely had some influence on him honing that specific skill in the gym.
“I feel like I’ve been counter-punching and doing that similar style just naturally as a 16 or 17-year-old kid,” O’Malley said. “I was never taught properly how to slip or do these certain movements. I just naturally did them as I feel like I’m truly born to be a fighter and my instincts are there. I’ve definitely improved on all of those and I’ve picked up little tips and tricks from so many different fighters, Conor being one of them for sure.
“But as far as counter-punching, I think I’m just naturally… A lot of people are either counter-punchers or they’re not. I feel like what makes me different is I can literally do both at a very high level. I can punch going backward, I can punch going forward, but I definitely agree that Conor is one of the nicest counter-punchers and I definitely take a little influence from it.”
Watch the full interview below: