Ever since first arriving in the UFC, Sean O’Malley has been viewed as a future superstar for the promotion. But just because he’s a little loud as he enjoys some flash and flare inside and outside of the cage doesn’t mean he’s mimicking Conor McGregor.
As he prepares to share a card with the former two-division champion at UFC 264 on Saturday night, O’Malley said he’s definitely found inspiration in the Irishman’s rise to fame. But he is quick to dispel any claims he’s trying to be a McGregor clone rather than forging his own path.
“I think the first time I watched him fight was against Max Holloway,” O’Malley said during the UFC 264 media day. “There’s just something about him like, damn, I want to watch him fight again, I want to continue to watch. I’ve watched every single interview he’s ever done. I’ve watched all of his fights, multiple times. I love the way he carries himself.
“A lot of people say that I try to be like Conor. You can have two people that have similar personalities. [People say], ‘Oh you try to dress like Conor, you try to fight like Conor, you try to act like Conor, talk like Conor’ — that’s not true at all. I definitely have taken bits and pieces and learned from him, which is the smart thing to do. Learn from someone who is that successful and doing that well. But yeah he’s definitely inspired me a ton. The way he carries himself. The way he handles pressure. The way he goes into these big fights. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
If there’s one attribute O’Malley definitely shares with McGregor it’s that he’s become a very polarizing figure in the UFC in an extremely short amount of time. Over the course of his career with the promotion, he’s been called out by seemingly half the roster competing at 135 pounds. He’s also absorbed loads of criticism for the opposition he has faced since earning his UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series.
None of it bothers him. He believes all the vitriol coming his way from other fighters really boils down to one thing.
“[They’re] jealous,” O’Malley said. “I think a lot of the fighters don’t get the attention I get. I’m putting on beautiful performances. It comes down to the knockouts really. Going back to the Alfred [Khashakyan] knockout, even before that when I was in the UFC, when I fought David Nuzzo, that knockout went viral.
“It comes down to the performances. People are attracted to that. I think it comes down to the performances and then the outfits even. It’s just little things that get attention.”
Even as he shares a card with McGregor, who is undoubtedly the biggest draw in the sport, O’Malley feels like he’s stealing a lot of the spotlight heading into Saturday night.
Despite a late change in opponents, O’Malley has felt the attention for his fight as he once again looks to steal the show at UFC 264.
“This is my fight,” O’Malley said. “Even though I’m fighting Kris [Moutinho], who’s never been in the UFC, it’s still going to do huge numbers. There’s still going to be a ton of people watching this fight. A ton of people excited for this fight. I feel like my fan base is just as excited for my fight as they are the trilogy, Conor vs. Dustin [Poirier], which is insane.
“I think the numbers will show that. I don’t know if you can really prove that at all but if you can, I think it would show that.”
As far as predictions go, O’Malley expects to add another viral knockout to his resume in the matchup against Moutinho, which will probably only further frustrate the fighters who already have a distaste for him.
“I don’t just knock people out. I change people’s careers,” O’Malley said. “Mentally, the way I knock people out, they step into that cage and they’re different the next time they get out there. So it could be the beginning of his career [in the UFC] or it could be the end of his career.”