No. 1-ranked bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley will begin fight camp and remain on standby if the promotion needs him to replace Aljamain Sterling or Henry Cejudo, who collide for “Funk Master’s” 135-pound strap in May.
That said, O’Malley refuses to sign on for the official backup role at UFC 288, because that would require “Sugar” to endure another grueling weight cut for a much smaller paycheck, along with the very real likelihood that he won’t be competing.
“UFC did offer him a ‘backup’ position at UFC 288, in which he would make weight that week in anticipation of stepping in, if needed,” MMA reporter Brett Okamoto wrote in his latest update. “He told me he declined that offer because the thought of making weight without a fight for a much smaller paycheck than what he’s used to isn’t appealing at this point in his career.”
Sterling has been dealing with a torn biceps over the last few months and was unable to nail down a definitive timeline for his Octagon return — right up until the promotion was ready to pull the trigger on Cejudo vs. O’Malley for the interim strap.
“I feel I’ll be in shape and ready if it happens,” O’Malley told ESPN. “I’ll officially go into camp and will be sparring in the next couple weeks. I’ll pretty much do a full camp, just without a weight cut at the end. I do think they’ll both make the fight, but Aljo has that biceps injury and he’ll be grappling a lot for this fight, so I’ll be ready.”
UFC has yet to make the fight official and we still have two full months before Sterling returns on May 6, so don’t be surprised if something happens between now and then. Either way, it sounds like O’Malley will be ready for anything — except a UFC 288 weight cut.