The PFL 2018 light heavyweight final will see Sean O’Connell staring across the cage at feared jiu-jitsu ace Vinny Magalhaes — and O’Connell isn’t spoiling anything when he says he intends to keep the fight standing.
New York, NY — Sean O’Connell has become one of the unlikely stars of the PFL’s inaugural season. The former UFC light heavyweight has always been a bit of a jack of all trades. An entertaining fighter, who once wrote a novel and promoted it in the octagon post-fight. A member of the PFL broadcast team, even fighting the same night he worked the booth. And at PFL 11, a championship finalist. One more win, and O’Connell wins it all.
It was a bumpy road getting here. He has found himself in danger in a number of fights. But somehow, he always seems to turn it up after getting hit. As to why that is, “I don’t know. I mean, survival instinct? Because I’m not a great martial artist but I’m a great fighter? Who knows.”
“In this game, if you can’t handle adversity, if you’re not willing to fight back from a little bit of trouble, you’re not going to make it very far,” O’Connell observed. “Everyone in these championship fights has been in the situations that I’ve put myself in, and has come out on top at least a couple of times in their career.”
“I do it more often than I would like,” O’Connell would later admit. And he acknowledges that it may happen in the championship bout against Vinny Magalhaes, but he plans on overcoming adversity then too.
Magalhaes, of course, is a dangerous foe on the ground. “It’s a daunting task, obviously. Going up against someone with his jiu-jitsu credentials,” O’Connell allowed. “Obviously you’ve got to make it something other than a pure jiu-jitsu match.”
“If he finds a way to get me down, he’s got to find a way to keep me down. It’s a fight,” he added. “Vinny the fighter has been impressive lately, but Vinny the fighter is not nearly as invincible as Vinny the jiu-jitsu practitioner. We’re hoping we can find some holes in the MMA game.”
“In the jiu-jitsu game, am I going to tap Vinny?” O’Connell asked. Probably not. But he’d like to test Magalhaes on the feet, while acknowledging his opponent has looked good there as well. If he passes that test, a million dollars and the belt await.
O’Connell vs. Magalhaes goes down December 31 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The card airs live on NBCSN and Facebook Watch internationally.