There’s no denying that Sean O’Malley is one of the most promising young prospects in mixed martial arts (MMA) today. After all, the surging bantamweight contender has won his first three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) appearances en route to pushing his undefeated professional record to 11-0.
O’Malley’s early career success is certainly impressive in its own right, but it’s the intangible stuff that have people excited for the rise of “Sugar.” From his strong social media game to his lucrative role in the marijuana industry, O’Malley is spreading his wings more and more as his UFC career grows.
After a two-year absence from the sport, O’Malley made a triumphant return to the cage two weeks ago at UFC 248 when he smashed Jose Quinonez via first-round TKO (see it HERE). It was a moment that allowed O’Malley to make up for lost time and prove he’s still the real deal.
“I don’t think I really lost any hype going into that fight,” O’Malley told MMA Fighting. “It was exciting. I think people feel that certain way when I fight, and I’m excited to get back in there and make them feel that again. It’s powerful.”
O’Malley had been scheduled to fight twice before that, but battles with USADA and an untimely foot injury prevented him from returning to the cage. When the time finally came “Sugar” felt like he was making his UFC debut all over again.
“I think the two fights I was supposed to be in brought that hype back a little bit,” O’Malley explained. “Then it got pulled, then it got built up again, then it got pulled. There was a lot of drama behind it all, so it almost made it more exciting for my return, but yeah, it felt like my debut all over again.
“I enjoy that. It’s cool to be able to get such a big following, so many eyes to watch me fight from being in the UFC. It’s a sweet life.”
O’Malley, who made his real debut back in 2017 after a successful showing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, is already being pegged as one of the fighters to carry the torch at 135 pounds. The surging bantamweight understands that his skills may be good enough when stacked up against the division’s top 15, but that doesn’t mean O’Malley is looking to move things along quickly.
“I’m 25 – I’d like to fight until I’m 35 or 36,” O’Malley explained. “I’m extremely healthy and I could maintain that for that long. Once you start fighting the best guys in the world, you’re going to fight nothing but the best guys in the world. So I’m going to take it fight by fight, take it slow.
“I’m 3-0 in the UFC, and it’s hard to do that when you feel like you could knock out these top dudes in the world. I feel like my skill level’s there, my mindset’s there and everything’s there, but it’s a balance. Trying to make this a smart career.”
Thus far, O’Malley has been thrown against capable UFC fighters like Quinonez and Andre Soukhamthath, passing with flying colors. Victories over those two fighters aren’t going to land “Sugar” in a bantamweight title fight anytime soon, but it has allowed O’Malley to harness his growing potential so early into his UFC career. It’s a similar approach UFC took with global superstar Conor McGregor, who fought guys like Marcus Brimage, Diego Brandao, and a young Max Holloway in his first three Octagon bouts.
“Conor [McGregor’s] career, they did pretty well with as far as building him up,” O’Malley said. “It’s a business. It’s a career. You can only fight for so long. You’ve got to make as much money as you possibly can. So we’re going to look at it like a business and go from there.”