Following a highly impressive first-round knockout victory over Alfred Khashakyan on the second installment of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in July 2017, “Suga” Sean O’Malley appeared to have all of the tools needed to become a future star in the UFC.
The now 25-year-old then kept the momentum going, winning back-to-back fights, the second of which he fought the final few minutes of the third round in with a broken foot. Due to his personality and flashy fighting style, it seemed as if O’Malley was on the fast track to becoming a marquee attraction with main events and big fights lying on the horizon.
Then, however, a string of bad luck and unfortunate events began to take place. Originally slated to take on Jose Quinonez in October 2018, O’Malley was forced to withdraw from the bout after announcing that he had been flagged for a potential anti-doping violation. He then had hip surgery and was subsequently suspended for six months after it was deemed that the banned substance Ostarine was in his system.
Following the suspension, “Suga” was booked to take on Marlon Vera in July 2019, but another setback occurred, as he was once again flagged for trace amounts of Ostarine being in his system, likely a residual effect from the initial test, and handed a second six-month suspension.
Now, however, after two years on the sidelines, it’s finally time for O’Malley to make his long-awaited return to the octagon, as he’s set to take on Quinonez on the ESPN-televised portion of tomorrow’s UFC 248 from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Given his age, the undefeated native of Montana still undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him and although he admitted that there were some dark times over the past two years, it’s also seemed as if the time off has been a blessing in disguise for him, allowing him to hone his skills both physically and mentally and adjust to life as a UFC fighter.
But the fact remains that two years is quite a long time, especially in the fight game where fans are quick to forget and divisions are quick to move on. And the 135-pound division specifically looks drastically different than the last time O’Malley competed.
At the time, TJ Dillashaw was still the bantamweight champion. Now, Henry Cejudo holds that title and he’s set to defend it against featherweight great Jose Aldo, who had not even considered dropping down to 135 pounds just a few years ago.
Many new contenders have emerged as well, as Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan have both risen the ranks with impressive win streaks, while Cory Sandhagen has made waves as well by winning his first five UFC fights.
Simply put there’s a lot going on at the moment at bantamweight with many intriguing fights on the upcoming schedule. Given that, it’s not far fetched to think that some may have forgotten about O’Malley and where he fits into everything.
But it’s for that reason that his comeback fight is so important. Should he come back and make a statement, it’ll likely seem as if the last two years had not even taken place and he’ll instantly regain the momentum he once had. Should he struggle, however, it may be a bit more difficult to get back on the path he once seemed so destined to be on.