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LAS VEGAS – Peeved by the promotional love that Sean O’Malley is getting this early in his UFC career? Well, try doing what he does and perhaps you might enjoy some of it yourself.
There’s no denying it’s been a quick rise for someone who wasn’t even part of the UFC’s roster before last July. Less than five months after impressing UFC president Dana White with a first-round knockout of Alfred Khashakyan at Dana White’s Contender Series 2, O’Malley was already put in an FS1-televised co-headlining spot.
He didn’t get a finish over Terrion Ware but looked impressive enough that his following octagon appointment, at Saturday’s UFC 222, is already going to be on a pay-per-view main card.
Is it an awesome place to be? Sure. But shocking? Not for O’Malley.
“I’m not super surprised,” O’Malley told MMAjunkie on Wednesday. “I’ve always kind of pictured this. It’s going a little bit faster than I thought, but it doesn’t add any more pressure. People keep asking if there’s more pressure on me, fighting on a pay-per-view card. I love it. I want that. If I was the main event, I’d love it.”
O’Malley (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who meets bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath (12-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC), is also getting an added boost as he gets to be featured on the “UFC Embedded” series. Sure, an undefeated record helps, but it’s not every day that a 23-year-old fighter gets to enjoy this type of attention.
O’Malley, however, isn’t flustered by any of it – which probably has a lot do with the fact he just knew he’d be in this position eventually. And though arguments as to how the promotional machine can help leverage one’s career will likely go on indefinitely, it’s not like O’Malley just sat back and waited for things to happen for him.
There is, of course, the work he does inside the gym, twice a day, every day. But there’s also the understanding that, at least when it comes to his goals, it’s about more than that.
“It is a fight business, but it’s also an entertainment business,” O’Malley said. “You’ve got to be good at both. You can be good just at fighting, but you’re not going to get all the pay checks you want. And I want the pay checks. I want everything.”
Navigating that line, it seems, comes naturally for O’Malley.
“Ever since I was a little dude, I was always trying to entertain everyone I was around. I was trying to be the center of attention,” O’Malley said. “And I brought that into this sport. Now, look at me. All the people saying, ‘Why are you marketing this guy?’ It’s me, marketing myself, giving them content to push.
“… You go out there and throw the kicks I’m throwing, do what I’m doing. Knock out people. Be wild, be yourself, be crazy, and you’ll get promoted too. I see a lot of hate, but it’s fine.”
As for the origins of said crazy fighting style? Well, it didn’t come from mimicking any fighters. How could it, when O’Malley didn’t even watch fights growing up? But that’s about all the explanation he can offer, given it seems to have simply been with him all along.
“I spar hard twice a week in camp, and I put on a show in sparring, too,” O’Malley said. “It’s not like I have to go out there and try to do this. I go out there and do what I do, and that’s the ‘Sugar’ show. It just works out. It’s just my style.”
To hear from O’Malley, check out the video above.
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