Yan and Sugar, who is ranked No. 13 in the division per the official UFC standings, are set to fight in Abu Dhabi during UFC 280 on October 22. Yan is viewed as a considerable step up in competition for O’Malley, which has had many in the MMA community questioning the matchmaking.
And White was one of those individuals who showed skepticism toward the pairing. But, one of the promotion’s matchmakers, Sean Shelby, convinced the UFC president that it was the fight to make.
“We were in matchmaking and Sean Shelby actually came up with that fight,” White told the media on Tuesday via MMA Fighting. “Sean Shelby wanted that fight. I said, ‘Are you out of your mind? You don’t make that fight now. This and that.’ He told me why he’d make it and O’Malley’s ready. You know, O’Malley’s about to be 28 years old in October, in his absolute prime right now, hits like a truck.
“He ended up selling me on it. And more importantly, both guys wanted it. And even more important than that, when we announced it, everybody went crazy and loves it. And even more important than that, it should be f****** a really good fight.”
O’Malley competed at UFC 276 on July 2 against Pedro Munhoz. It was his first match as a ranked combatant, however the contest was waved off during the second round after Munhoz suffered an inadvertent eye poke.
Yan dropped his last fight via split decision when he battled Aljamain Sterling for undisputed gold at UFC 273 in April. “No Mercy” remains ranked as the No. 1 contender and he currently sits as a -400 favorite over O’Malley (+300).
O’Malley Said He Believes He’ll ‘Rise to Occasion’ Against Yan
Sugar is aware of the tough test he’ll be facing in the United Arab Emirates. But, he said last week at a London press conference that he plans to “rise to the occasion.”
“Obviously, I haven’t gotten to prove [I belong at the top],” O’Malley said via MMA Fighting. “That Pedro [Munhoz] fight didn’t really end the way I wanted it to. But I think I proved I can hang with the top-10 guys. Jumping up to the No. 1 guy, this is a huge test and I believe I will rise to the occasion.”
And O’Malley it clear that if he beats Yan in October, he should receive the next shot at gold. “One-hundred percent,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley Would Wait for Jose Aldo to Fight for the Belt First
Sugar paid his respect to the former UFC featherweight king Jose Aldo, who is set to fight Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 278 on August 3. With a victory, Aldo could place himself next in line for a shot at 135-pound gold, and O’Malley said at the presser that he wouldn’t hold up the legend.
“I think he said he wants to beat Merab and then fight for the title,” O’Malley said. “I wouldn’t mind beating up Petr and then letting Jose fight for the title and then fighting the winner of those two. Jose’s a legend and he deserves to fight for that belt.”