Say what you will about Conor McGregor’s influence on MMA, but one thing’s clear, the ‘Notorious’ was a major trend setter when it comes to UFC champions pursuing a second belt. McGregor’s drive to capture both featherweight and lightweight gold made him the first ‘double champ’ in the history of the Octagon. He was followed shortly afterward by Henry Cejudo, Daniel Cormier, and Amanda Nunes.
Similarly, Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya both made attempts to walk in the man’s footsteps—although both their efforts failed. Recently, Sean O’Malley captured his first piece of UFC hardware, could he become the next fighter to go up a division and try to take home belt number two? It doesn’t seem like it’s a priority.
Sean O’Malley ready for featherweight… once Volkanovski isn’t champ
Recently Sean O’Malley teamed up with Juan Gonzalez’s ‘That Was Epic’ web show to hand out cash and prizes to strangers around his home city in Arizona. While filming, ‘Suga’ also took the time to answer a few questions about his fighting career, what it’s like to be a UFC champion, and what his next move might be. When asked about possibly fighting for a second title in the featherweight division, O’Malley admitted he would “love to” with one very notable reservation.
“I would love to,” O’Malley admitted when asked about fighting for a second title, “when Alexander Volkanovski is not the champ. That motherf—ker is pound-for-pound best in the world right now.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” he backtracked when asked if he wouldn’t “dare” to fight the ‘Great’. “I mean, I’m confident I can knock anyone out. I feel like I can definitely knock Alexander Volkanovski out. It’d be f—king, very very difficult. But, I mean, maybe in a year or two, if he’s still there, I would do it. But, I think he’s going to move up to 155.”
It’s a pretty similar sentiment to one O’Malley made last month on an episode of his Timbo-Suga Show podcast, telling his coach, Tim Welch, to “chill” and “be realistic.” “I ain’t f—ing calling for Volk,” O’Malley explained. In a more recent podcast episode he once again made it clear that’s just not a fight he wants, even if he thinks he has a chance to win it.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t fight Volk,” O’Malley explained. “I’m just being very honest. He would be a very very difficult fight. I mean, do I believe I could knock him out? 100%. I believe I could knock out anybody around 135-145. 55? That would be a little tougher, I’d need to put on some L-Bs. But Volk’s a very difficult fight. I’m not saying I’ll never fight him, that’s just not what I want now.”
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Volkanovski thinks Sean O’Malley is one of the best strikers in MMA
If Sean O’Malley seems like he has nothing but praise for Alexander Volkanovski, it appears that their is a mutual appreciation club in development. Heading into the 28-year-old’s title challenge against Aljamain Sterling, the Volkanovski gave his thoughts on the matchup. While the City Kickboxing star was still picking Sterling to win, that came with the reservation that O’Malley would be more than capable of putting the Serra-Longo fighter away.
“Sean O’Malley, I think he’s up there as one of the best strikers in the UFC, he’s right up there,” Volkanovski admitted in a video posted to his YouTube (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Especially in that division. There’s so many — that’s a stacked division. You’ve got your [Cory] Sandhagens, obviously, Petr Yans, Aljamains, there’s so much talent.
“Man, it is a stacked division and I think he’s one of the best when it comes to striking. So that’s saying something. He’s very creative, doesn’t just throw flash stuff. It’s calculated. He’s got really good distance management, he’s really good at drawing strikes out of people and countering. He’s really good on the offense, coming forward. He’s good even on the back foot. He’s good on his angles. Very, very high-level stuff and he can be very creative while he does that.”
At the moment, neither Volkanovski nor O’Malley have an official fight date set for their next (first) title defenses, however, both men appear to have challengers ready and waiting. For Volkanovski, Ilia Topuria appears to be the man of the moment. ‘El Matador’ is fresh off a five round thrashing of top ranked featherweight Josh Emmett back in June and is currently the only top-5 fighter at 145 coming off a win that hasn’t already lost to the champ.
For O’Malley, there are three options on the table. The first is a rematch with Aljamain Sterling, a fight that the MMA Lab talent has already publicly turned down. The second is a bout against #2 ranked Merab Dvalishvili. A longtime teammate of Sterlings, Dvalishvili has cast some doubt on his own contendership after declaring that he’d rather Sterling get the rematch. The current front-runner, however, appears to be Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera. Despite sitting at just 6th in the rankings, Vera is the only fighter to hold a victory over O’Malley in his pro career, stemming from a TKO back in 2020.
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