Sean O'Malley doesn't want to put off a battle until the next summer.
At UFC 280 in October, O'Malley defeated Petr Yan by a split decision to earn his biggest career victory. The victory propelled O'Malley to the top of the UFC's bantamweight rankings and established him as Aljamain Sterling's likely next title challenger, but there's a catch: Sterling isn't looking to fight anytime soon.
After competing twice in 2022, Sterling, who also competed at UFC 280 and decisively defeated T.J. Dillashaw, recently stated that he would like to take a break. He indicated that June would be the best time for him to return. That latency might be simply too prolonged for O'Malley. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Sterling said that he had "earned his time off" and won't fight again until the middle of 2023.
If so, O'Malley (16-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) would appreciate the opportunity to compete for the interim championship while the champion is out. And he believes that Marlon Vera would make for the best foe in a rematch.
“I get it, Aljo cuts a lot of weight,” O’Malley said on his YouTube channel. “He’s probably already back up to 165,170, he’s probably like, ‘I don’t want to cut weight again in the next couple of months, I want to enjoy it.’ … He wants to wait eight months. I get it, I do, but say the No. 1 contender, ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley is ready to go in March, and the next guy in line, in my opinion, should be ‘Chito’ Vera. He just beat Dominick Cruz, beat Frankie Edgar, beat some good guys.
“Why not have a little interim belt, and then the winner of the interim belt fight Aljo when he’s ready?”
The two biggest names in the bantamweight category, O’Malley and Marlon Vera, have a history together. At UFC 252, Vera stopped O'Malley, a defeat that O'Malley even now argues. O'Malley is certain that a rematch between the two would generate significant revenue for the UFC given their respective histories and names, but the conditions would need to be ideal.
O'Malley comments that despite promising to do so shortly, he hasn't yet spoken with the UFC after his victory over Yan. Whatever the case, it is most apparent that O'Malley won't be wanting to wait on the sidelines for eight months unless there is an extremely compelling cause.
“It’s hard to say but I just think March is a good time frame for me,” O’Malley said. “I like fighting in March. If they have a big card in March, in Vegas, you can probably see me on there.”