UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley has named which fight got him into the sport of mixed martial arts nearly a decade ago.
O’Malley, widely regarded as one of the fastest-rising stars in the UFC, has become a household name for combat sports fans. Having burst onto the scene with one of the most memorable performances in Dana White‘s Contender Series history in 2017, “Sugar” has kept that entertaining style since making his way to the Octagon, recording seven knockouts in 10 outings.
2021 was somewhat of a breakout year for O’Malley, with the Montana native securing a trio of Performance of the Night bonuses courtesy of stoppage wins against Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho, and Raulian Paiva.
Entering the year with a newly inked contract with the MMA leader and a place in the bantamweight top 15, O’Malley had a rise towards the top in mind.
And although that goal looked to be stalled in July when his bout with Pedro Munhoz ended in a no contest, the #13-ranked contender is set for a sizeable step up in competition next time out in the form of Petr Yan.
As he gets set for the biggest opportunity yet, O’Malley has looked back at where it all began, which two legendary fighters helped forge his path into the cage.
O’Malley Names McGregor/Holloway As Key Fight
During a recent episode of the TimboSugarShow, podcast guest Ariel Helwani asked O’Malley if he remembers the one fight that ignited his passion for mixed martial arts.
In the past, “Sugar” has been vocal about the impact of Conor McGregor on his career, naming the Irishman as the only person he’s ever looked up to.
“He’s probably the only person I could say I’ve ever kind of, looked up to. Like, ‘Damn, I wanna be that big.’ I wanna change the sport like Conor did,” O’Malley said during an interview with ESPN MMA.
With that comment in mind, it’s unsurprising that one of McGregor’s appearances in the Octagon stands as one that inspired O’Malley to pursue a journey in MMA.
“Conor versus Max (Holloway),” O’Malley revealed. “Yeah, I think that’s kinda the first fight. When I moved down to Arizona, we were staying at Tim’s (Welch) girlfriend’s house. And I remember his (McGregor) style. I was like, ‘What the f*ck, that’s different.’ He looked like a karate — f*cking, just moving around weird. That’s funny that you ask me that and that’s the memory that came up. Conor versus Max was kinda like, when I started.”
While regarded as two of the sport’s best across the past 10 years, when McGregor and Holloway collided in 2013, the careers of both men were in their infancies.
The two fought at UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen in 2013, with the Dublin native emerging victorious on the scorecards in what was only his second contest under the UFC banner.
Having torn his ACL against “Blessed,” McGregor required surgery and was stuck on the sidelines for 11 months. When he returned, it took just three wins for him to earn a title shot, defeating Chad Mendes for interim gold before dethroning the legendary José Aldo.
O’Malley will be envisaging similar glory for himself soon enough, starting with success against Yan in Abu Dhabi on October 22.
Are you surprised that McGregor v. Holloway is the fight that got Sean O’Malley into MMA?