Sean ‘Sugar’ O’Malley prepares to fight on biggest UFC event

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Photos courtesy Getty Images/Zuffa LLC
Sean O’Malley punches Terrion Ware in their bantamweight bout during the TUF Finale event Dec. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Sean O’Malley, who trains at The MMA Lab in Glendale, punches Andre Soukhamthath in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 222 event March 3, 2018, in Las Vegas.

After two fights in the UFC, Sean “Sugar” O’Malley is already one of the best up-and-coming fighters in the organization and now is on the biggest UFC pay-per-view cards in history.
 
O’Malley, 23, who trains at The MMA Lab will face Jose Quinonez (8-2) Oct. 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on one of the most stacked UFC cards of the year. But, he heads into the bout with no added pressure, even as he is preparing for his biggest fight of his career.
 
“I don’t really feel any more pressure on my back,” O’Malley said during a recent phone interview as he trains for the fight. “I know, after my last fight, that the UFC is pushing me more and I have a pretty big following, but added pressure, not really. I just prepare like I always have.”

BEGINNING IN MMA

O’Malley said his introduction to the world of mixed martial arts he owes to a friend who asked him to check out a gym in Montana, where he grew up.
 
“I was introduced to MMA after a buddy asked me just to come check out a gym in Montana when I was 16,” O’Malley said. “When I walked in, it was almost instant that I fell in love with the sport and that was it, I knew that I wanted to be a fighter.”
 
When he started fighting, he had no clue what to do, except that he loved hitting people, but he didn’t know the difference between an orthodox stance and a southpaw stance, and he didn’t have any concept of footwork. He did what felt right, and found that it worked, so he kept doing it.
 
“I worked my butt off early, training all the time, but it just really came to me because I loved to fight,” O’Malley said. “Once I got started that was it, I knew what my future was, and it was fighting.”
 
He said he trained for a short time in Montana, but, “there are not many gyms in Montana, so another friend of mine said I had to check out this place in (Glendale).”
 
After a trip out and visit to The MMA Lab, he went home not knowing his fighting life had just changed after visiting with head coach John Crouch at the Lab.
 
“I just had a connection with (head coach John Crouch) and the fighters that I met while I was visiting,” O’Malley said. “I then went home and actually raised $2,000 and decided to move the Arizona and got an apartment with a friend and the rest is, as they say, history.”
 
John Crouch, head coach at The MMA Lab, was intrigued wth O’Malley and welcomed him to the team.
 
“I was glad to have Sean come here, it’s always exciting to have young fighters come here to develop. Sean has improved in all aspects of his MMA game, becoming a very formidable opponent for anyone he faces,” Crouch said.
 
Now, as he prepares for his biggest fight on the biggest stage, he is focused on getting better each week as he’s turned into a sensation in an amazingly short period of time.
 
When asked who he would compare his style to, O’Malley says he has taken a little from each of the fighters he follows. He is 10-0 and 2-0 in the UFC, but he’s got some ways to go before he’s considered great. But he’s shown himself to be an exciting, unorthodox fighter.
 
“Look, my job is to entertain and fight and that is what I do every time I step inside the cage,” O’Malley said. “I just like to fight and, as I have said before, my style is my own because I take a little from everyone I have looked up to.”
 
O’Malley fought nine amateur fights in Montana, compiling a 7-2 record, before turning pro in March of 2015 in the Intense Championship Fighting. He scored a technical knockout in his first fight 1:33 in the first round.
 
He went on to win his first seven pro fights, including one of the best knockouts you will ever see in his seventh win in the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) against David Nuzzo in May 2017.
 
O’Malley scored a spinning head kick that knocked Nuzzo out, which to this day is one of the most astonishing finishes in MMA.
 
“Training has been going great, he has been working very hard.,” Crouch said. “I expect that he will have the best performance of his career and I think he can go as far as he wants to go. His talent and work ethic can take him to the top of this sport.”

UFC AND FUTURE

After the LFA victory, he got a chance with the UFC on the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series in July 2017. When he stepped into the cage on that night, he scored a knockout of Alfred Khashakyan four minutes into the first round with a huge right hand, which got him a contact with the UFC.
 
“I am a fighter and when I got that chance, I wanted to take advantage of it,” O’Malley said. “My style is I come out and spin and look for the knockout, but I am also having so much fun while I am in the octagon.”
 
O’Malley said while he is a fighter, it is not easy to get ready for bouts when he is not angry or mad at his opponents, but he understands what he does.
 
“I don’t look at it like I am going in the octagon to just beat someone up, I am not that type of person, I am not just trying to hurt my opponent,” O’Malley said. “Look, we know when we get in there that injuries are possible, but it is just a sport and I know we are going in there to entertain.”
 
After 10 professional fights, O’Malley is undefeated after most recently defeating Andre Soukhamthath via unanimous decision at UFC 222 in March.
 
In that fight, as it looked like O’Malley was running away with the fight, he launched a head kick in the final round that bounced off Soukhamthath’s head. When he brought his foot back to the floor, O’Malley couldn’t stand on it and Soukhamthath immediately took him to the canvas, but O’Malley held on for the victory.
 
“In the moment, I really didn’t think about what was happening in the octagon,” he said. “I was dominating that fight and had gotten a lot of shots to his head, but I don’t really know why he kept trying to take me down because I couldn’t put any weight on my foot.”
 
He added that, if Soukhamthath had just forced him to stand and fight, he probably would have gotten his first loss.
 
“Yeah, my foot was hurt, but he kept trying to fight, so my instincts were to continue and that is what I kept doing,” he said. “I think because through the first two rounds I was really connecting with shots to his head, maybe he didn’t know what was happening.”
 
Since that fight, even though he has been recovering since the surgery, he has become one of the most featured and pushed fighters by the UFC, as he is constantly being called out by numerous fighters.
 
“You know, I have been called out by a bunch of fighters and I understand it, they are trying to get more fans,” he said. “So they call me out and I get it, but I don’t give a lot of attention to them, I have been called out by so many people and not give them the attention they are looking for.”
 
When asked where he expects to see his career in the near future, he said he has stopped looking past his next fight.
 
“After hurting my foot in my last fight, I only look as to who I face next,” O’Malley said. “Right now I am focused on (Jose Quinonez) and Oct. 6 in Las Vegas and the next episode of the Sugar Show.”

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