UFC 269: Sean O’Malley Disputes Notion That He Picks Opponents

Las Vegas, NV — Controversy seems to follow Sean O’Malley where ever he goes, and that has continued ahead of UFC 269.

This time out, there’s been criticisms of his merch, sporting the slogan “unranked champ,” and accusations of picking opponents.

O’Malley (14-1) responded to that talk during this week’s UFC 269 media day.

“If you could only pick one bantamweight fight to watch, and we all fought at the same time, I believe most people would choose me. So Unranked Champ fit the whole merch drop,” O’Malley responded on that front.

Then there’s the picking of opponents. O’Malley once stated that he wanted more money to fight ranked opponents — and yes, he admits to saying that. But, he noted Wednesday, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press, that was several fights ago.

“But I’ve also called out Cody Garbrandt, Pedro Munhoz, Dominick Cruz. I’ve called out the ranked guys,” noted O’Malley. “So it’s not necessarily that I want to get paid more to fight the ranked guys. At this point, it’s just like, I’ve called them out. I haven’t got those fights. I don’t pick my fights, clearly. If I picked my fights, I’d be fighting one of those guys.” In the case of UFC 269 opponent Rulian Paiva, the promotion offered O’Malley the fight. Paiva “was ranked 15, I didn’t know that at the time, until after I accepted it and they said ‘oh he’s ranked’ and then a couple days later he wasn’t.”

“I think the idea that I just pick my fights isn’t exactly true,” O’Malley continued. “They offered me Paiva, I said yes. Does that mean I pick my fights? I don’t know. I didn’t say ‘hey I want to fight Paiva.’ The whole, I pick my fights and I’m not going to fight someone tough until I get paid is not necessarily true.”

And, noted O’Malley, Paiva is a dangerous opponent. “Anybody in the UFC is going to be a dangerous opponent. I think Paiva’s dangerous, he’s very tough, we saw it in the last fight.” While O’Malley believes Kyler Phillips defeated Paiva in the Brazilian’s last fight, regardless of what the judges ruled, “he’s a dangerous opponent to show that much heart. Kyler was hitting him with some hard shots, and he stayed up.”

In advance of the final UFC PPV event of 2021, much has been made about O’Malley being featured on the main card, while the legendary Dominick Cruz is fighting on the prelims. It’s something O’Malley noted himself. While Cruz has stated it doesn’t matter, O’Malley had his own response this week. “For my ego, it’s fun. It’s funny. He’s a former world champion, and he’s not even on the main card. So of course he’s going to say it doesn’t bother him. What, is he going to come up here and cry about it? Then he looks like a baby. But to be honest, I wouldn’t really care if I was on the prelims either. Fighting earlier sounds good to me. I don’t get paid any more, I’m not trying to sell this fight, I don’t get PPV points.”

So, said O’Malley, he somewhat believes Cruz when the ex-champ says it doesn’t bother him. “But come on, it’s gotta bother him a little bit. Him and Pedro [Munhoz] are both ranked in the top 10, and they’re not even the main event of the prelims. That’s gotta sting a little bit.”

Watch the full UFC 269 media day scrum with Sean O’Malley above. The event takes place this Saturday, December 11 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. More coverage can be found below.