Chess! – Sean O’Malley says he lost to Vera ‘on purpose’ to set up big rematch

Sean O'Malley offers a new narrative on his TKO loss to Marlon "Chito" Vera in 2020.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 3 weeks ago
Chess! – Sean O’Malley says he lost to Vera ‘on purpose’ to set up big rematch
IMAGO | Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today Network

Sean O’Malley’s current professional record is 17-1, with 1 NC. That lone L on his slate came at the hands of Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera at UFC 252 in 2020, who won via first-round TKO. 

But the case is entirely different if you ask the “mentally undefeated” O’Malley. Now, he’s offered a new angle to what seems to be an ever-growing narrative. 

Sean O’Malley says he lost the Vera fight ‘on purpose’

In Sean O’Malley’s mind, the loss lies merely on paper. Drop foot, he says, led to the fight’s outcome.

“That shit hurts. I’ve been dropped by calf kicks in sparring,” he said in a YouTube video he released after the fight … It doesn’t do what it made my foot do. What happened to my foot, I got kicked on this nerve right here. 

“Did he get lucky? Yes. Did he win? The nerve gave me drop foot, and then I sprained my ankle, like, four times.”

At the time, this was his response to critics who urged him to take the loss in stride. 

“Rewatch that fight. I was about to start beating his ass.”

But in his recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Sean O’Malley offered a new narrative. 

“I’ve actually been playing chess for a long time,” the 28-year-old told Ariel Helwani. “I lost that fight on purpose, just so that I could go out there and knock out Aljo and have (the Vera rematch) be my biggest fight.”

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - MARCH 25: Marlon Vera in his Bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at AT&T Center on March 25, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas, USA. (Photo by Louis Grasse PxImages) (Louis Grasse SPP) PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxBRAxMEX Copyright: xLouisxGrassex xSPPx spp-en-LoGr-lgrf102303250297_UFC_espn43
IMAGO | Louis Grasse / Sports Press Photo

Sean O’Malley on the magnitude of the Vera rematch

Vera also fought at UFC 292, the same night O’Malley won the undisputed bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling. The Ecuadorian defeated Pedro Munhoz via unanimous decision at the main card opener. 

While there’s another viable (and, for some, a more deserving) contender for Sean O’Malley, he sees the Vera rematch as a bigger and better option. 

“If I got to pick, if I was running the show, I would say yes. Simply because Chito is the biggest fight, next. Not because of his beautiful performance over Pedro. That’s not the case. 

“If I fight Chito next, it’s because that’s what I want, and that’s biggest fight. I’m in the fight business and I want big fights.” 

The timetable for O’Malley’s return

While he did mention plans for a December return, Sean O’Malley is also dealing with injuries. One of them happened before UFC 292, which he says hindered him from doing any grappling training for six weeks. 

As he told Helwani, an Octagon return before the year ends is still possible. But it will all depend on his physical condition. 

“If it was up to me… and I’m gonna get an MRI on the left side of my (left) hand from bouncing it off Aljo’s head 600 times, so that’s a little sore. I do think it’s gonna take just a little time to heal. I still haven’t grappled, but I’m gonna try to grapple soon and see how this (rib) feels. 

“If I’m healthy, ready to go, December would be… I would love that. I would love to fight in December,” he added. 

O’Malley’s UFC 292 win earned him his eighth UFC post-fight bonus since entering the company in 2017.

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About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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