When Sean O’Malley returns to the Octagon, he expects to challenge for the UFC bantamweight championship.
O’Malley became the new No. 1 contender after he defeated Petr Yan by split decision in a ‘Fight of the Night’ awarded outing at UFC 280 this past October. At that same event, reigning UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling dispatched TJ Dillashaw via second-round TKO, notching his second consecutive defense.
With their respective wins, Sterling and O’Malley appear to be on a collision course, but their fight may not happen soon. ‘Suga’ told Marc Raimondi of ESPN that he expects to fight again in mid-2023, so Sterling could try to squeeze in another defense between now and then. And since Henry Cejudo announced he was ending retirement and returning to competition, it is likely he could get a shot at the ‘Funk Master’.
If the UFC goes that route, then O’Malley is fine with waiting for the winner.
“I think Henry vs. Aljo in March makes sense,” said O’Malley. “If Henry really is serious about coming back, which kind of seems like he is, then I’d like to fight the winner of that. It’s hard to say exactly what’s going to happen next, so I’m just kind of waiting to see where that goes.
“I’m not too worried about it,” continued O’Malley. “I know my next fight is for the title.”
Sterling has addressed a potential fight against Cejudo over O’Malley, and he is not excited about it. The Serra-Longo Fight Team product said on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that the former two-division champion is not as big of a draw as O’Malley is, especially in light of the current landscape of the division.
O’Malley agrees with that sentiment.
“I’m the biggest fight, obviously,” said O’Malley. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Anybody I fight is going to be the biggest fight in the division. I don’t know what to tell him.”