Rising UFC bantamweight star Sean O’Malley believes the UFC would remain the best MMA promotion, even if its top stars departed.
Not too long ago, serious talk surrounding fighter pay and the possibility of elite stars exploring free agency would have been largely unheard of, bar a few “rebels” in that regard. Now, the topic is one of the most widely debated and discussed in the sport by fans, pundits, and fighters.
The man behind the latest surge for additional contractual benefits is “the baddest man on the planet,” Francis Ngannou. Leading up to the first pay-per-view of 2022, the heavyweight champion’s quarrel with the UFC was public, with his manager suggesting it goes far beyond just money.
Ngannou’s unification showdown with Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 represented the last fight on his deal. While a defeat would have likely seen him depart the promotion, a victory would secure a strong negotiation position, both in the context of his own desires, and the greater pursuit of improved contracts for fighters on MMA’s biggest stage.
After five rounds in Anaheim, “The Predator” accomplished the latter.
From Dana White‘s Octagon and press conference absence following the main event to the revelations since, including a legal threat sent to Ngannou’s team prior to the event and the undisputed titleholder’s willingness to do “whatever it takes” to get what he wants, it’s clear the tension and uncertainty around Ngannou’s future have intensified since UFC 270.
With the promotion facing the possible departure of its heavyweight champ later this year, renowned MMA journalist Ariel Helwani pondered whether this could set the tone and get the ball rolling for a mass exodus of UFC stars.
Israel Adesanya, Nate Diaz, and Conor McGregor are likely to fight out their active deals this year. With that in mind, Helwani questioned what would happen if they all decided to test the waters of free agency.
According to Sean O’Malley, not much…
During a recent episode of his YouTube podcast, the #12-ranked 135lber suggested the UFC could lose all of its top stars and still remain the best promotion in the sport of MMA.
“The UFC could lose all those motherf*****s and still be the best,” said O’Malley. “They’ll still have the biggest names, still do the biggest numbers, it’s crazy… I think the UFC does it the best.” (h/t Sportskeeda)
O’Malley Defended Dana White On Fighter Pay
O’Malley’s comments come after he defended Dana White and the UFC’s stance amid the rising controversy on the current fighter pay structure.
While many point to the discrepancy between MMA and boxing, and the fact the lowest purses on UFC cards see fighters walk away with as little as $12,000, “Sugar” thinks the debate is as simple as ‘take home what you bring in’.
“Dude, like I don’t even blame Dana. It’s like, some of these f*cking people have zero following. They’re not making the UFC one hundred thousand,” O’Malley said during an episode of the TimboSugarShow. “I mean, they’re not making the UFC fifty thousand. They’re not making the UFC any money really. But that’s from a business perspective, from Dana’s business perspective, I can see that.”
O’Malley was last in action at UFC 269 in December, where he impressively finished Raulian Paiva via first-round TKO. As well as earning a place in the rankings, the Montana native seemingly secured a handsome pay rise, as teased by Dana White in the aftermath of the event.
While Ngannou and perhaps a number of others will be considering a move away from the UFC this year, one man who appears more than happy with his current situation is O’Malley. If a mass exodus of stars does happen, “Sugar” certainly expects to still be part of the “best” promotion in MMA.
Do you agree with Sean O’Malley? Could the UFC lose its top stars and remain the MMA leader?