At UFC 280 last month, both O’Malley and Sterling found success and left Abu Dhabi with new wins added to their respective records. But since then, the pair have shown different attitudes towards their next outings.
Fresh off a win over Petr Yan that ascended him to the #1 spot in the divisional rankings, O’Malley has noted that he’s targeting a return to action next March, five months after his three-round war with “No Mercy.”
Sterling, on the other hand, has labeled June as the target for his third title defense, meaning he’s expecting eight months on the sidelines.
Sterling’s admission, which came soon after reports that the promotion was targeting a matchup between the champ and the returning Henry Cejudo in Australia next February, was met with criticism from some fans.
Many pointed to the manner of his latest victory, which saw him take no damage in a quick TKO win over an injured TJ Dillashaw, as evidence that Sterling’s planned return timeline is excessively long.
O’Malley: “I Went Through A War & I’m Ready To Go In March”
During a recent episode of the podcast he hosts alongside his brother, top bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley gave his assessment of Sterling’s planned rest time.
While he noted that “Funk Master” is likely looking to avoid another sizable weight cut anytime soon, he also pointed out how much earlier he’s hoping to return despite seemingly suffering a lot more damage in his own UFC 280 outing.
“(He didn’t get hit) at all. It’s so hard to say, everyone’s different,” O’Malley said. “I get it. Aljo cuts a lot of weight. He’s probably already back up to 165/170 (pounds). He’s probably like, ‘I don’t wanna cut weight again in the next couple of months, I wanna enjoy it.’ But I do think — so November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June; he wants to wait eight months… I went through a war and I’m ready to go in March.”
Rather than suggest that Sterling should advance his planned return date, though, O’Malley pitched the introduction of an interim title fight to be fought for in the first quarter of 2023.
“I get it, I do. But say the number one contender, ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley, is ready to go in March, and the next guy in line, in my opinion, should be ‘Chito’ Vera… why not have an interim belt and then the winner fights Aljo when he’s ready?”
Despite Cejudo’s repeated claims, O’Malley is clearly still not taking the former two-division titleholder’s comeback plans all too seriously. With that, he sees a potential rematch with Marlon Vera, who is the only man to defeat “Sugar” in professional MMA, as the leading option should the UFC create an interim belt.
Either way, having defeated a former champion and the previously ranked #1 contender, O’Malley expects his next outing to have gold on the line.
What are your thoughts on Aljamain Sterling’s planned layoff? Should an interim title be introduced like Sean O’Malley says?
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