Sean O’Malley is ready to begin his title chase.
The 27-year-old up-and-comer is slated to face top-10 UFC bantamweight Pedro Munhoz in a pivotal bout on July 2 at UFC 276. The fight represents a chance to begin inching toward contention for O’Malley, who has won seven of his eight UFC bouts. And after demolishing Raulian Paiva in December at UFC 269, “Sugar” is excited at the prospect of facing an opponent in Munhoz who he believes will challenge him in ways no others have before.
“I believe it makes sense,” O’Malley stated on The MMA Hour . We both fought on the last card. It’s a good step up. If you look at his two previous losses, it’s to Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz who were former world champions. He isn’t losing any scrubs. Prelim Pedro is my favorite. I think it’s my toughest opponent to date, 100 percent, no questions asked. He knocked out Cody [Garbrandt],, but who hasn’t? So I guess doesn’t really matter. But yeah, ‘Prelim Pedro’ is going to be my toughest fight, for sure.”
O’Malley correctly points out that Munhoz has been in a slump in his career, but that most of his losses were against well-known fighters. The Brazilian has an 1-4 record over his last five fights, however all four of those losses have come against either current or former UFC champions: Cruz, Aldo, Edgar, and the reigning bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling.
In truth, UFC 276 is a moment years in the making for O’Malley. While “Sugar” has become a fan favorite for his flashy style and devastating knockouts, he also fashioned himself for a time as the unranked king, drawing plenty of mixed reactions for his stance about not wanting to fighter higher-ranked competition until he was better compensated by the UFC.
O’Malley stated that he is happy with his current relationship with UFC and his contract status with them, but that he would like to change his moniker.
” That was just a bunch of jokes. I’m ready to climb the ladder,” O’Malley said. I believe that ‘Prelim Pedro is the next great step. He’s never been finished. He’s never been finished. I want to be there. I do not want to make a decision. Some people don’t mind going to a decision. Not me. It’s my wish to get out and turn the lights off. If it does [go to decision], I’m not going to be sad at the end of the day. If I whoop his ass for 15 [minutes], I’m not going to be sad. But I’m definitely looking to go out there and get my hand raised with a finish.”
A spectacular win over Munhoz would likely propel O’Malley into the conversation at 135 pounds, and he’s already called for a potential rematch against the only man to defeat him — top-5 UFC bantamweight Marlon Vera — as his next move. He still has plenty of work ahead of him to get to that point, but if all goes according to plan, O’Malley is confident he can not only be a champion by the end of 2023, but also become one of the biggest stars in the sport alongside the likes of Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya, and Kamaru Usman.
“There’s no one doing it the way I want to do it. There’s no one doing it the way I’m capable of doing it,” O’Malley said. “I just have to go out there and win these fights and make my own lane, the same way Conor did. Izzy does a great job. He’s an active champion. Kamaru does a great job as well. As Conor, Conor and everyone else want me to be larger than them both. But I think I’m going to do just my own thing, my own path, and ideally, in my mind, it all starts with a dream.
“It may sound ridiculous to want to be larger than Conor right now. But if you go out and knock out Pedro, or whoever is the champ, beat [them] down, then [and] that’s what I am. Conor has had many great fights with Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes and Nate [Diaz]. I still have to go out there and have those sweet fights and those sweet moments to be that big, and I’m totally capable of that. I’m 27 years old. I’m a f***ing animal right now and I’m excited to go out there and prove that against ‘Prelim Pedro.'”