Sean O’Malley believes that he might have gotten inside Aljamain Sterling’s head. The two bantamweight fighters are scheduled to face each other at UFC 292, where Sterling’s championship title is on the line. Their interactions on social media have been filled with verbal jabs, with Sterling recently making fun of O’Malley for sending direct messages to engage in trash talk.
In an interview on The MMA Hour, O’Malley addressed his rivalry with Sterling and emphasized that he’s not avoiding pre-fight psychological tactics. O’Malley remarked, “He possesses the championship belt, which I aspire to obtain. It’s as straightforward as that. I openly mentioned to him, ‘Hey champ, you appear somewhat uneasy,’ when I saw him on TV. I was simply speaking honestly. It seemed like this significant moment might be affecting him a bit. It’s about two weeks away from the weigh-ins, and I’m sure he still has a considerable amount of weight to cut, plus he’s dealing with injuries. So, I thought he looked a bit nervous, and I thought I’d communicate that to him, which I did.”
Sterling is aiming for his fourth defense of the bantamweight title when he faces O’Malley at TD Garden in Boston. A victory would not only extend his record for the most consecutive title defenses in the 135-pound division but could also signal a potential move to the featherweight division. This move would create space for Sterling’s close friend and teammate, Merab Dvalishvili, to contend for the title and allow Sterling to undergo a less challenging weight cut.
O’Malley speculates that weight cuts might be causing problems for Sterling, and he believes that any issues leading up to their fight could work in favor of Sterling’s opponent. O’Malley mentioned, “I’ve heard him say he struggles with sleep at times. Obviously, he’s dealing with weight issues, I guess you could phrase it as weight issues. It’s not enjoyable. I don’t cut as much weight as him, and I don’t enjoy cutting weight, it’s unpleasant. So for me, indulging in hearty dinners a couple of weeks before the fight, I’m pretty sure he’s not doing that, and even if he is, it will only make his weight cut more difficult.”
Despite Sterling’s social media posts showing his impressive physique as he prepares for the fight, O’Malley isn’t letting these visuals affect his mindset. He acknowledged that Sterling always appears muscular and in great shape due to his genetics and hard work.
When it comes to the fight itself, O’Malley recognizes that he’s considered the underdog, partly due to Sterling’s previous successes and grappling-focused fighting style. Sterling’s recent win over Olympic gold medalist and UFC champion Henry Cejudo has raised the respect for his achievements.
However, O’Malley is not allowing doubts to deter him. He remains committed to his belief that he will be the one to end Sterling’s championship reign, and he intends to do it in a decisive manner. O’Malley stated, “I’ve certainly heard these doubts. But I don’t pay too much attention to what people say. Before my fight against Petr Yan, I heard similar things, not about wrestling or grappling, but that I would be destroyed, that I shouldn’t be in the same ring with him. But I proved them wrong by winning that fight. I’m not too concerned about it. I agree, Sterling’s wrestling and grappling are very strong. The question is whether I can land a knockout punch before he gets a hold of me. It’s a classic striker vs. grappler scenario, and our game plans are no secret. I genuinely believe I have the ability to knock him out. I’m in excellent form right now – fast, sharp, accurate. I will land that right hook. If you look at my UFC career, I’ve dropped numerous opponents in the first round, whether or not I finished them then. He’s cutting a lot of weight, and that has an impact. It absolutely affects the punches you can absorb. So my plan is to deliver punches that he won’t be able to endure.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Title showdown
Who are the fighters involved in the UFC 292 title clash?
The fighters involved are Sean O’Malley and Aljamain Sterling, both bantamweight stars.
What is at stake in their fight at UFC 292?
Aljamain Sterling’s championship belt in the bantamweight division is on the line.
What kind of interactions have O’Malley and Sterling had prior to the fight?
They’ve engaged in verbal jabs over social media, with Sterling even mocking O’Malley for initiating trash talk through direct messages.
How does O’Malley perceive Sterling’s mindset before the fight?
O’Malley thinks Sterling appears nervous and believes this might affect his performance in the fight.
What concerns does O’Malley have about Sterling’s weight cuts?
O’Malley suggests that Sterling’s weight cuts and injuries could potentially impact his ability to perform well in the fight.
What potential impact could Sterling’s weight cut have on the fight?
O’Malley believes that the weight cut might affect Sterling’s ability to absorb punches and make him more vulnerable in the fight.
How does O’Malley view the stylistic matchup against Sterling?
O’Malley acknowledges Sterling’s strong wrestling and grappling skills and identifies the fight as a classic striker vs. grappler scenario.
What does O’Malley believe is the key to his victory?
O’Malley is confident in his ability to land a knockout punch on Sterling and aims to do so before Sterling can capitalize on his grappling skills.
Is Sterling’s weight cut progressing well?
Based on Sterling’s social media posts, his weight cut seems to be going smoothly as he showcases an impressive physique.
What potential outcomes might arise if Sterling wins?
If Sterling wins, he would achieve his fourth defense of the bantamweight title and potentially consider moving up to the featherweight division.
How does O’Malley handle doubts about his chances against Sterling?
O’Malley is not bothered by doubts and points to his past victories where he proved critics wrong, such as his fight against Petr Yan.
What is the overall narrative leading up to the UFC 292 clash?
The narrative includes mind games, weight cut challenges, and the clash of fighting styles, with both fighters eager to secure victory in the title bout.