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Sean O’Malley wants to whoop Petr Yan, become the next Conor McGregor: ‘I think UFC fans want that’

UFC 269: Paiva v O’Malley Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Former UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who also held gold at 145 pounds, is one of the biggest stars in the history of combat sports. Sure, he’s no Ronda Rousey — according to promotion president Dana White — but he blows the doors off former champions Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre.

That’s the level Sean O’Malley is hoping to (eventually) reach in his MMA career.

The next step on that journey includes a UFC 280 pay-per-view (PPV) fight against former bantamweight champion Petr Yan. The bout, which takes place on Oct. 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, took some campaigning from this eager beaver to get signed, but the reservations from up top makes the stakes that much higher for O’Malley.

“Usually I’d say people are hoping I don’t win, but to be honest, I would say the majority of people that think I won’t win actually want me to win,” O’Malley said on ESPN’s DC & RC show (transcribed by Alexander K. Lee). “People want a superstar. There’s really no one in the UFC right now that is that Conor level. Me, I go out there and beat Petr in spectacular fashion, I’m climbing. I’m not going to be there yet and I know that, but I’m climbing to become that guy. I want to be the Conor, I don’t want it to be competitive to where it’s like, ‘You’re up there with this.’ I want to be that guy.”

McGregor started his UFC career with seven straight wins, six of which ended by way of violent knockout, including his 13-second destruction of Jose Aldo at UFC 194. As for O’Malley, he’s 7-1 with one “No Contest” through his first nine appearances and still trying to blast his way into the bantamweight Top 10.

“And I think the UFC fans want that,” O’Malley continued. “They want somebody that they can get super, super excited about, so most people think I’m going to lose but I think the majority of people want me to go out there and win, which is rare, I don’t usually think that, but I do think in this case that’s what it is. I don’t think I have to go out there and knock Petr Yan out very fast, I don’t have to knock him out in under a minute to get that Jose Aldo moment. I think just beating Petr ... I know how tough he is, I know how good he is. I go out there and beat Petr in a decision, I’m not going to be the most excited. I do want a finish, but beating Petr is a big deal in itself.”

It could be big enough to land O’Malley the next shot at the 135-pound title, depending on what happens when Aljamain Sterling defends his division title against former bantamweight kingpin TJ Dillashaw, also at UFC 280. Capturing the crown would certainly go a long way in validating “Sugar’s” decision to give up a life of porn and pigskin.

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