Sean O’Malley is known for his striking and to date, his bantamweight hands have turned in an impressive 11 knockouts in 16 wins. But if “Suga” wants to have a legitimate chance at capturing the 135-pound title he’ll need to prepare himself for two of the division’s best wrestlers in current champion Aljamain Sterling and former titleholder Henry Cejudo.
“I’m just training, I’m getting better,” O’Malley told Michael Bisping’s “Believe You Me” podcast (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “I know I need to improve in aspects of my grappling whether I fight Aljo or Henry. Both are very heavy grapplers, so I’m fine with sitting out. I’m literally just grappling. That’s all I’m really doing nowadays, so I’m fine waiting a couple of extra months, just keep getting better.”
O’Malley soared to the top of the bantamweight rankings by upsetting former champion Petr Yan at UFC 280 back in October, a performance that may (or may not) have been good enough to land a 135-pound title shot. But “Suga” is expecting the promotion to first book Sterling and Cejudo for an upcoming pay-per-view (PPV) card at some point in early 2023.
“I’m in a tricky position,” O’Malley continued. “I’ve always knew I’d be in this position where you’re at the top of the division, (and) it doesn’t really make sense to fight. I’m guaranteed a title shot. Obviously Aljo and Henry still have to be announced, so I’m kind of in that position to where I’m like, ‘Do I be smart like I’ve done my entire career and just wait for those two dorks to fight, or do I risk it and go fight someone else?’ Which wouldn’t be the intelligent thing to do, but it’s like you only get so many years to fight, and I don’t really like sitting around too much. But I’m leaning towards waiting for Aljo and Henry to fight and just wait for that.”
Even if the promotion makes an announcement within the next few weeks, the 28 year-old O’Malley should not expect a title shot any sooner than summer 2023 and that’s assuming Sterling vs. Cejudo has a clean finish with no injuries. At the same time, fighting a top contender like No. 3-ranked Merab Dvalishvili could end his title run before it gets started.