Sean O’Malley is the UFC bantamweight champion. The gold around his waist proves it. Ask Marlon Vera and he’ll tell you O’Malley is a clown-looking charlatan parading as king. The UFC holds court at UFC 299 in Miami on March 9 to settle the score between the two.
O’Malley is a betting favorite heading into UFC 299. It’s familiar territory for the champ but one he hasn’t experienced lately. O’Malley cashed as an underdog by knocking out Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 to become champion. He also upset former titleholder Petr Yan via split decision in a Fight of the Night at UFC 280. Vera argues those solid performances overshadow O’Malley’s convenient path to the top.
“Let’s just speak of the facts if we really go through his record,” Vera told CBS Sports. “He fought guys that never won in the UFC. He didn’t even fight 50-50 fighters. Some of those guys were terrible.”
Check out the full interview with Marlon Vera below.
Vera pointed out that Alfred Khashakyan — the man O’Malley knocked out to earn a UFC contract — never made it back to “Dana White’s Contender Series.” O’Malley knocked out veteran fighter Eddie Wineland, but so did his next two opponents, leading to Wineland’s retirement. O’Malley has defeated 10 fighters in the UFC bubble: the first eight were released or retired.
“With the exception of Yan and Sterling, his opponents have a pretty shitty record,” Vera said.
The challenger wouldn’t even acknowledge O’Malley’s big achievement without diminishing it.
“Beating the champion was great. Good job. He moved well, defended the takedown,” Vera said. “And of course, Aljamain’s striking is not the best and he ran into the punch. That’s pretty low-level of a striker to do.”
O’Malley did not face the fiercest competition on his path to glory, but it’s hard to discredit his KO win over a critically respected champion like Sterling. In Vera’s defense, O’Malley hasn’t fairly acknowledged “Chito” either.
The two previously fought at UFC 252 in August 2020 as up-and-coming contenders. O’Malley suffered an abnormal drop foot injury that compromised his balance. O’Malley fell and was unable to defend himself from brutal ground-and-pound elbows. The fight was waved off and Vera earned a first-round TKO. O’Malley’s injury was rare but likely caused by Vera’s leg kick. It’s the only loss on O’Malley’s record but one he deems illegitimate. O’Malley insists he is undefeated in 19 professional fights.
“I can’t go and convince a kid about what will be or what was,” Vera said. “That’s just his personality. It’s either he’s that dumb or he’s putting on a persona just for the show. I don’t care regardless.
“I don’t have time to talk to a f—ing little puppy with colored hair. I’m going to kick his ass, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to engage. Good luck trying to get in my head.”
Vera seeks no validation from O’Malley at UFC 299. Only that he hands over the UFC bantamweight title should Vera win.
“I just need to beat him. I want to beat him. I have to beat him,” Vers said. “I will become a world champion.”
Author’s note: some quotes were condensed for clarity.