Aljamain Sterling on O’Malley picking his opponents

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Sean O’Malley’s reign as the UFC bantamweight champion remains intact following UFC 299.

The “Sugar Show” dazzled as the main event attraction for the second consecutive time this past Saturday night in front of an energetic Miami crowd. O’Malley sought redemption against Marlon “Chito” Vera, the only blemish on his 20-fight career (18-1, 1 NC), after a loss in August 2020. Unfortunately for Vera, he couldn’t replicate his previous victory and instead suffered a one-sided unanimous decision loss in their UFC 299 headliner rematch. O’Malley secured his second title defense after capturing the title against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 in August.

Despite top contender Merab Dvalishvili appearing as the clear next option, the promotion opted for O’Malley’s rematch with Vera. Post-fight, O’Malley, now a featherweight, called for a matchup with featherweight champion Ilia Topuria, showing less focus on Dvalishvili.

Sterling, frustrated by O’Malley’s post-fight antics, expressed his feelings on his YouTube channel. Sterling, 34, acknowledged that he might come across as “salty” when discussing the situation in his former division. If not for O’Malley, Sterling could have had his fourth title defense against Vera.

“He should have called out Merab and did the right thing. I think it’s kind of ridiculous for him to say, ‘Dana [White], get the jet to Spain.’ Like what’re you talking about, dude? You defended the belt against a guy who wasn’t even ranked in the Top 5. They moved him up to the Top 5 to make it look like it was better like he fought a Top 5 opponent. How did Chito move up in the rankings? Who did he beat to move up in the rankings? He just barely beat Pedro Munhoz, who Pedro just lost a pretty decisive fight to Kyler Phillips.

“No knock on Pedro, I’m not trying to throw strays. I’m just trying to call a spade a spade. Yeah, [O’Malley] won, but it would be nice to fight a guy who’s next in line. So, that’s the only thing that I feel a little bit awkward about. Yeah, you won, but you won against a guy we were all expecting you to beat. So, as a champion, it’s hard for me to put a lot of stock in that because I just can’t respect it as much.”

O’Malley, 29, had already expressed his desire for a champion vs. champion fight before Topuria claimed the featherweight title at UFC 298 with a knockout of Alexander Volkanovski last month. O’Malley appreciates the excitement and danger that “El Matador” brings at 145 pounds but considers Dvalishvili the most logical bantamweight challenger.

Dvalishvili, known as “The Machine,” boasts a bantamweight record 10-fight winning streak.

“At the end of the day, if you beat the next best guy, that’s a true champion. I think anybody with any type of respect for the game — you can say, ‘Well, that’s not the way the sport is being played anymore.’ That’s fair, but we’re talking about credibility in terms of the win. You go out there against a guy you’re supposed to beat and you beat him to a decision. Even O’Malley was kind of like, ‘Damn, I really thought I could finish him.’ That would have been a perfect highlight-reel.

“A win, but now you kind of have that question mark of, ‘Well, if you fought the next best guy, would that fight look the same? If you fought [Cory] Sandhagen, if you fought Merab, would that fight have looked the same?’ It’s a good win to get your feet wet as the bantamweight king and I do look forward to O’Malley hopefully doing the right thing and calling out Merab. UFC doing the right thing and making this fight.

“It’s an opportunity for the UFC and Sean to do the right thing. Be the gangster. Be the badass. Call out the next best guy. Get people to see that you’re not afraid to fight the biggest best guys in the division. Not picking fights that are gonna make you look like a superstar. That was a tailor-made fight [with Vera] for Sean to look great.”

Sterling is set to make his featherweight debut against Calvin Kattar at UFC 300 next month.

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