O’Malley become the division’s No. 1-ranked contender last month after he edged former bantamweight king Petr Yan on the scorecards, beating the Russian at UFC 280 by split decision. It was Suga’s most important and high-profile victory of his professional mixed martial arts career.
And during an interview with ESPN, O’Malley said he had recently sat down with UFC president Dana White and one of the promotion’s matchmakers, Sean Shelby, about his fighting future. O’Malley told the outlet that the brass was onboard with him fighting for gold next.
“I know my next fight is for the title,” O’Malley said.
Suga also said that he was aiming to return in July 2023, which means the belt could be contested for before he makes his Octagon return. Aljamain Sterling is the current bantamweight ruler and although he told ESPN in an interview that he wanted to fight O’Malley next, their timetables may not match should the “Funk Master” want to fight sooner than next summer.
But, O’Malley recognizes that he’s one of the sport’s biggest stars, which could be appealing to Sterling. “I’m the biggest fight — obviously,” Suga said. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out; anybody I fight is going to be the biggest fight in the division. I don’t know what to tell him.”
O’Malley Would Prefer to Fight Henry Cejudo Over Sterling for the 135-Pound Strap
Another name that is adamant about wanting to fight for the championship next is former 135 and 125-pound champion Henry Cejudo. For months, Cejudo has actively campaigned for a title fight. He announced his return to the sport earlier this year after retiring from the sport in May 2020.
And if Sterling fights “Triple C” for the belt before O’Malley takes his opportunity, Suga will be cheering for the latter.
“It’s a better win, beating the two-time world champ, two weight [classes], Olympic gold medalist,” O’Malley said. “If you’re just going off that, what win looks better? A win over Aljo or a win over Henry? For me, a win over Henry looks better.”
Sterling Believes O’Malley Has Done Enough to Earn a Title Fight
Before O’Malley and Yan met inside the cage on October 22, the UFC president had confirmed that the winner of the bout would fight for the belt next. So, considering White said that and O’Malley defeated Yan — Sterling’s former two-time opponent — the Funk Master is willing to put his belt up against Suga.
“I think he’s the biggest fight. He’s the most active, he beat the No. 1 guy – former champion – so, I don’t see how you can backtrack after saying the winner of this fight gets the next crack at the title. So, for me, it’s Sean O’Malley.”
“Sugar Sean, sign the contract,” he continued. “That’s my guy. There is no contract, though. But, if there’s a guy I can pick it’s — Mr. Sugar.”
Sterling last fought immediately after O’Malley defeated Yan, and the Funk Master successfully defended his belt for the second time by taking out ex-champ TJ Dillashaw via second-round TKO.