As if Sean O’Malley’s underdog victory over Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 wasn’t impressive enough on technical merit alone (watch highlights), it turns out “Suga” pulled off the win with an injured rib that kept him from fully training for the fight.
Commentator Joe Rogan mentioned the injury moments after O’Malley knocked out Sterling in the second round of their Bantamweight title fight (full video here). During UFC 292’s post-fight press conference (replay here), O’Malley went into detail on how bad the situation was.
“Dude, I haven’t grappled in six weeks,” O’Malley revealed. “I had a muscle strain and I literally couldn’t grapple in six weeks. Couldn’t MMA spar. I was the main event in Boston, there was no shot I was pulling out. But we haven’t grappled in six weeks. Six weeks from today I had a muscle strain right under my rib and I couldn’t grapple.
“So coming into this fight and fighting Aljo, any time I did an interview I was saying it was life or death, I cannot get taken down?” he continued. “It was because I didn’t know if this would hold up. And it’s f—ing sore right now. I don’t know if it’s from a kick or the scramble, the little bit of grappling that we did, it’s not super painful but I can feel it. Dealing with those mental demons coming into this fight, knowing I was injured-ish.
“Literally, we didn’t grapple one day in the last six weeks,” he re-affirmed. “Didn’t grapple at all on fight week. And I kept saying in every interview, ‘It’s life or death if he takes me down.’ And I was kind of referring to that, but I’m not going to come out and say I was injured.”
O’Malley was surprisingly honest about how anxious the situation made him coming into the fight, and how surreal it felt to win with that kind of handicap.
“Yeah crazy sense of relief, it’s just like ‘Holy s— I got through that,’” he said. “I didn’t get taken down. I knew the odds, I knew I was capable of it 100 percent. I’ve had really good sparring days before that where I was just really good at not getting taken down. So I knew I was capable of it. But the odds of me not getting taken down once in 25 minutes aren’t very high, especially against such a good grappler. So the fact that it played out like this is just mind blowing.”
Fortunately for O’Malley, he went into his flow state once the fight started and was largely able to fend off Sterling’s attempts to close the distance. When “The Funkmaster” got impatient and rushed in carelessly, O’Malley cracked him with a right hand and that was the beginning of the end of the fight.
We’re now in the “Suga Era,” and we imagine his confidence will only grow after he overcome this level of adversity against a beast like Sterling.
For complete UFC 292 results, coverage and highlights, click HERE.