Sean O’Malley is easily one of the fastest rising stars in UFC today. The promising bantamweight contender may have had to sit on the sidelines longer than expected to work out his issues with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), but “Sugar” still produced a memorable return to the cage this past March at UFC 248 to finish Jose Quiononez via first-round TKO.
Just 25 years of age, O’Malley is one of the most promising young names on the UFC roster today and someone who the promotion is going to take its time with. A slowed and calculated approach is probably the best for O’Malley at this point, especially considering he has fought just once in the past two years.
That said, O’Malley has the tools to steadily improve on his undefeated 11-0 professional MMA record, climb the UFC bantamweight ladder, and one day fight for the title. Such a path could lead “Sugar” to a future matchup with current 135-pound champion, Henry Cejudo. While O’Malley respects Cejudo’s skills inside of the cage and pays tribute to some of the names he has knocked off, “Sugar” isn’t too keen about the champion’s cringe-worthy antics outside of the cage.
“I wouldn’t consider that working for him,” O’Malley told MMA Junkie. “I think he’s definitely trying, but he’s just trying too hard and it’s hard to watch. And I guess that’s the way they’re going for – the cringe – but I think he could have taken that a different route. I don’t know. I think as a champ, he’s beat some really, really good dudes. Yeah, he’s really good – but he’s just a cringey dude.”
Cringe or not, Cejudo has become one of the better fighters on the UFC roster. Before relinquishing his UFC flyweight title earlier this year “Triple C” was a two-division UFC champion with an Olympic gold medal to boot. Some have even called him the “greatest combat athlete of all time.”
While UFC’s current schedule in complete limbo, Cejudo is expected to defend his UFC bantamweight title in the very near future. The champ was first scheduled to meet former featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 250 next month before Aldo was forced out of the fight and replaced by Dominick Cruz. That bout has since been postponed, but it’s interesting that both contenders picked to challenge Cejudo for the 135-pound crown are coming off losses. Cruz, who is the former UFC bantamweight champion, hasn’t even competed in over three years.
It’s a situation that has an up-and-coming contender like O’Malley scratching his head, although the bantamweight youngster understands UFC’s intention to stage the biggest fights possible.
“Yeah, it’s super weird,” O’Malley said. “That Jose Aldo fight, I definitely thought he won against Marlon (Moraes). … Dana’s like, ‘No, I thought he won that fight, I’ll give him a title shot.’ So it’s pretty cool Dana has that power and it’s his company, (but) it’s pretty weird coming off a loss.
“I mean, Cruz deserves it in a sense – all the injuries he’s had to deal with and how his career went, so I don’t know. I wouldn’t be upset with him getting it but there’s also guys like (Cory) Sandhagen and (Aljamain Sterling) that probably deserve it more, coming off wins. Yeah, that’s a tough one.”
At this point, we don’t really know the next time we’ll get to see Cejudo step inside of the cage. Rumors are beginning to swirl about the champ’s proposed matchup with Cruz being moved to a monster event next month, but that hasn’t fully materialized either. Young divisional stars like O’Malley, and deserving contenders such as Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling, will simply have to wait and see how this title picture plays out.
What say you, Maniacs? Are Cejudo’s antics outside of the cage all that bad? Does Cruz or Aldo really deserve a shot at the UFC bantamweight title?