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Opinion: Sean O’Malley will not win a battle with the UFC

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Sean O’Malley’s fight booking philosophy seems like it’s working well enough for now, but could badly backfire down the road.

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Sean O’Malley’s strategy of UFC fight bookings could backfire
Sean O’Malley’s strategy of UFC fight bookings could backfire
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Sean O’Malley’s plan, while sound enough in theory, also seems very likely to blow up in his face. Why? Simply put, the UFC doesn’t lose. And it especially doesn’t lose to a fighter who thinks they uncovered a way to get over on the promotion.

Speaking to the No Jumper podcast, O’Malley revealed his thinking behind accepting fights from the UFC matchmakers.

“Next fight, a lot of people want me to fight someone ranked,” O’Malley said. “They wanted me to fight someone ranked last fight. I was supposed to fight Louis Smolka. For me, I have a contract to fight a certain amount of fights, and I’m gonna get paid a certain amount of money whether I fight Louis Smolka, the dude I was supposed to fight, or I fight Petr Yan, the No. 1 bantamweight in the UFC. I get paid the same. I’m gonna fight this dude (who is lower). And I’m going to fight this dude on a Conor McGregor pay-per-view.”

I’ll admit, it’s not a bad, or unreasonable idea—at least not on paper. But it’s difficult to see it working out in the long run. In fact, O’Malley’s schedule scheme already seems to be failing.

When O’Malley reportedly turned down a potential fight at UFC 268 in New York, he said UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby tore into him.

“Sean Shelby was just like, mad and like, ‘Fine. Go hang out with (Rapper) 6ix9ine’. Like, just acting like a f**king tool, dude. So, I don’t know if I should’ve said that or not. But it’s like, dude, come on. What do you do?”

If O’Malley’s relationship with the UFC and its matchmakers is becoming dicey, it could get a lot uglier in the future. The UFC might have plans to promote him as a star athlete, but those plans can change quicker than O’Malley can get another questionable tattoo. The biggest concern of the UFC brass is promoting the three letters, U-F-C, not any individual fighter. The UFC has shown it will not hesitate to run over its champions. If O’Malley – an un-ranked bantamweight – thinks he can’t catch some Toyo tires across his backside, he’s mistaken.

As to how they might go about making the MMA Lab talent regret revealing his game plan?

First, the promotion can simply offer him fights against ranked opponents. Yes, O’Malley can turn down those fights, but every time he does so, his money stays the same and his contract extends.

Second, the UFC can offer him fights in locations he doesn’t want to compete in, like New York or other spots that are far away or have unfavorable taxes—two reasons O’Malley said he doesn’t want to fight in New York. Again, he’s free to turn down those fights and again, each time he does so, his contract extends.

Third, the UFC can offer him fights on “bad” cards. If O’Malley expects to land on high-profile events or pay-per-view cards, the UFC can just offer him a spot on a Fight Night card that will draw a low viewership. And once more (you guessed it) O’Malley is free to turn down those fights. And yes, each time he does so, more time gets added to his contract.

Now let’s say the UFC thinks, fine, “we’ll book O’Malley against unranked talent.” What very well might happen when he sits down and peaks at his next deal? Surprise, the dollar amount is the same as every other middle of the road UFC competitor and not even in the zip code of what O’Malley might be expecting.

O’Malley thinks he’s cute, but what he cannot see through his rainbow tresses is the UFC is cuter, more cutthroat, less forgiving, and needs him far less than he needs the UFC. O’Malley might think he’s won this one tiny battle, but the UFC won’t lose the war. O’Malley will be just another casualty on the UFC battleground. Perhaps his name will even get added to the tombstone UFC president Dana White held up whenever he “vanquished” a perceived promotional foe.

The UFC doesn’t forgive, forget or take kindly to looking foolish. Sean O’Malley needs to consider these things the next time Sean Shelby calls him with a fight offer.