The UFC’s bantamweight division has become one of the deepest and most difficult ladders to climb in the sport of MMA. Even just right at this moment, there are four former champions still active at 135 lbs and still ranked inside the top 15. Getting to the belt and keeping it is a monumental task.
That also has made for some fascinating drama when it comes to contendership, especially with ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley taking the title from Aljamain Sterling back in August. Who was going to get the next crack at gold? Would it be a rematch for Sterling? A title shat for Merab Dvalishvili? Another comeback for Henry Cejudo? Of all the options, #6 ranked Marlon Vera ended up with the golden ticket, all thinks to a 2020 performance that has him sitting pretty as the only loss on O’Malley’s record.
Cory Sandhagen doesn’t love UFC’s O’Malley/Vera 2 timeline
Currently in recovery for a recent tricep injury, Cory Sandhagen doesn’t have any cause to complain about not getting the next title shot, even despite his recent victory over Vera. That said, the Elevation Fight Team talent isn’t all that pleased to see that we’ll all have to wait until March to see O’Malley vs. Vera 2 at UFC 299. With the bout pushed out to early spring, that means Sandhagen will likely be looking at the summer—at the very earliest—if he’s hoping to be next in line.
“Why March? Fight earlier so that I can fight earlier,” Sandhagen in a recent interview with Luke Thomas (transcript via MMA Junkie). “I don’t think it’s the most favorable matchup for O’Malley, but I still think that O’Malley will likely win. March? I was hoping that they’d fight in January and then I would be able to come back in like April or May or something.”
“I’ll see what they say, I guess,” Sandhagen added when asked if he would consider taking another top contender’s bout. “Yeah, I don’t know. That’s a bummer. March? Damn.”
Sean O’Malley hyped to fight Chito Vera again
Despite Sandhagen’s injury, it’s not like Sean O’Malley didn’t have other top contenders to face. Sterling has been campaigning hard for another chance at the MMA Lab talent, and Dvalishvili has been left more confused than anything as to why the UFC is passing him over. But even with those option, O’Malley has seemed locked in on the idea of getting back his lone loss to Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera.
In a recent interview on the MMA Hour, the champion went on at length about all the reasons he’s hyped to take on Vera again.
“I want that fight. It’s just perfect. I feel like it’s perfect timing,” O’Malley told Ariel Helwani (transcript via MMA Fighting). “After that first fight, everyone was like, ‘You gotta get that rematch, you gotta get that rematch.’ And I said, ‘I’ll get that rematch when I want that, when it’s time. When it’s time for that rematch, I’m going to call for it and I’ll get it.’ I could’ve gotten that rematch whenever I wanted. I was like, it’s not the right time yet. Now is the right time, so I’m just very excited about that fight.”
“I don’t want to talk him down too much, because I’ve got to build a fight. But I’m going to smoke this dude.”
“I talk **** [but] I know how good he is,” O’Malley added later in the conversation. “I’m not going to go out there, I’m not going to have a lazy training camp. I’m not going to act like this is an easy fight. Every fight in the UFC, even the guys that aren’t in the top 15, they could be tough fights. So I’m definitely not underestimating him. I’m going to talk my **** and I’m going to say how I feel. He’s too slow, I’m going to beat his ***. But I’m going to take him as serious as I’ve taken every guy.”
UFC 299 is set to take place March 9th. A location for the fight card has yet to be announced by the promotion. As of the writing of this article, no other bouts have been announced for the card. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates as they become available.
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