Sean O’Malley is ready to run things back with Marlon Vera.
Long considered a top prospect at 135 pounds, O’Malley is slated to face Pedro Munhoz on July 2 at UFC 276 in a fight that could finally serve as his springboard into the UFC’s bantamweight top 10. An impressive performance would put O’Malley within striking distance of title contention, and the 27-year-old said Monday on The MMA Hour that it’d be stage one of an ideal two-stage plan that could vault him into a title bout by early next year.
What is the second stage to that plan? A long-discussed rematch with an old rival: “Chito” Vera.
“Two more finishes — early 2023, I’m fighting for the belt, whoever has it. I think after this fight, I go out there, I’ve got to finish Pedro — and I go out there, let’s say I finish Pedro, I get a top-5 guy, whoever that is. Depending on if ‘Chito’ gets a fight booked, I know that’s a fight that I want,” O’Malley said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“I don’t know if he’s going to get a fight booked. I’m assuming. He seemed like he wants to fight again. He could win another fight, possibly in December. We’ll see. I was kind of hoping Rob [Font] would win that fight, because I wanted to fight Rob, but he didn’t obviously. So yeah, I think Pedro, depending on if ‘Chito’ goes out there and beats someone in the top five, he probably can get a title shot. If he doesn’t end up getting a fight, I would like finish Pedro and get that fight, and we’ll see.”
Vera is expected to vault up the rankings after recently trouncing Font, who was MMA Fighting’s No. 6 ranked bantamweight in the world prior to their UFC Vegas 53 fight.
O’Malley and Vera collided previously in August 2020 at UFC 252, with Vera handing “Suga” the only loss of his career via a first-round TKO. Both men have since gone on to be successful — O’Malley rebounded to score a trio of UFC wins, as did Vera after a subsequent loss to Jose Aldo — and the two have continued sniping at one another from afar. O’Malley even adopted a tongue-in-cheek gimmick of having won their fight.
And now he’s ready to go again.
“In the past I said he’s got to earn a rematch, and I think he’s done that,” O’Malley said of Vera. “He went out there, lost to Jose Aldo, went out there and lost to Frankie Edgar and then beat him with, you know, he basically lost to Frankie. He lost 13 minutes of a fight.
“No, he did, he finished Frankie. He loses the fight after two minutes. He knocked Frankie out. Then he went out there and he looked really good against Rob, he looked impressive against Rob, he looked like he definitely improved. I don’t know how he didn’t finish him — he dropped him about 13 times. So he’s definitely improved and he’s earned that rematch. People hate when I say that, but it’s true — he earned it.”
Vera has been big-game hunting since his Font win. The Ecuadorian native made a number of comments about the contenders in a recent appearance at The MMA Hour ,.
O’Malley, likewise, still has matters to attend with Munhoz. But if “Suga” takes care of business at UFC 276, he believes the Vera rematch will make a lot of sense.
“It’s an important fight, and this is what I’ve been saying ever since that fight took place,” O’Malley stated. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you want a rematch?’ I’m like, ‘No, I want him to do what he’s done, which is build his resume.’ Go out there, lose to Aldo, almost lose to Frankie, and then beat Rob, so he’s earned it. Now, I have to beat Pedro.
“This is kind of what I expected. Not expected — I didn’t know if he was going to be able to go and win these fights. This is the scenario I had in mind if there was to be a rematch. We would both keep winning, winning, and finally get there .”