Kevin Iole talks to UFC bantamweight contender "Suga" Sean O'Malley, who looks to get back in the win column at UFC 260 on Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. And my guest, one of my favorites to talk to, one of the young stars in the UFC. I guess we could talk about whether he's undefeated or not. He is fighting on the main card of UFC 260 on Saturday at Apex. Of course, I'm talking about Sugar Sean O'Malley. How are you, Sean?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Doing good. Doing good. We're getting closer and closer to weigh ins. So I feel worse. But I feel good knowing it's closer.
KEVIN IOLE: Then you get to pass this next 24 hours, then you're going to be ready to rock and roll and do your thing. I'm sure you're anxious to get back in there after kind of the disappointing ending against your fight against Chito Vera. How tough has it been for you to kind of sit on the sidelines and hear people talk about your loss and not be able to fight because of the way that last fight ended?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah, it hasn't been tough at all. I've enjoyed-- shortly after that fight, I was over it in a sense to where I'm like, it happened, it's over, nothing I could do about it. Had a baby. So it's been good. Life has been really good. And I feel like it's perfect timing to get back in there. I was trying to get back in there earlier and it didn't work out, which I feel like was probably good. Because right now, it feels so good. And this fight feels like it was meant to be at this time.
KEVIN IOLE: For people who don't know, Sean suffered a case of drop foot in the fight against Chito Vera. I assume it came from the kicks. I mean, that was what caused your foot to do that?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: So and you had to be taken out of the ring on a stretcher. So wasn't able to finish.
SEAN O'MALLEY: I didn't have to-- I didn't have to be taken out on a stretcher. They literally made me get on there. And I was like, I can walk fine. They were like, get on there. And I was like, [BLEEP] it. I rolled my ankle about 17 times as well. But yeah. They made me get on there.
KEVIN IOLE: You've had some bad luck in these fights. And you've proven you know how to fight through adversity. Your fight with [INAUDIBLE] you had an injury. This fight you've had-- does that give you a sense that, hey, no matter what goes on in the ring, I know I can defend myself, and I can still accomplish things even if I'm not fully physically 100% needing to be what I want to be?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. Yeah, I'm ready to go for 15 minutes no matter what. 15 minutes, it's a long time, but it's not that long. So I can push through whatever happens for 15 minutes.
KEVIN IOLE: This is a sport of momentum. People talk about you going into the last fight, both you and Chito Vera had a lot of people talking about how things were going and whatnot. Now you're coming back and you're fighting Thomas Almeida. And I don't say this to dog him. He's lost three in a row, four of his last five. And I think the pairing that they gave you says a little bit like, hey, was the hype train too much? Do you look at it that way? Or do you think, hey, they're just giving you the next logical guy in line.
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. I think Thomas has lost to really, really top notch guys his last fights. He's coming off a loss, I'm coming off a loss. It's a good match-up for the fans. I think it just makes sense the UFC put it together. And I think it's a good fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Obviously a good striker. So this is kind of I think the fight we want to see you in. Your striking has been so pure and one of the things that made people like you in the first place. So now fighting a guy that you figure will stand across from you, and that should make this, I would think, one of the fights to watch on the main card. Don't you agree with that?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. I mean, in a lot of people's eyes, this is the main event. Francis versus Stipe's going to a sweet fight. It's going to be a legendary fight. it's the rematch. But a lot of people-- this is the main event fight also. So it's also a main event fight.
So yeah. It's going to be good. He's a good striker, hands up, technical. It's a fun puzzle to solve.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. You've never seemed to have trouble solving strikers. He's got that power. He seems to have that ability, kind of like Francis does to knock you out or hurt you with one shot. Does that change the game knowing that the guy you have on the other end, there's some guys that it takes an accumulation of shots to hurt you. He's the kind of guy it seems like if he hits you on the chin, he put you to sleep. Does that change the way you have to fight him?
SEAN O'MALLEY: No. Not really. If someone has power, or if they don't have power, I don't want to get hit by them anyway. If someone doesn't hit that hard, I'm not trying to still get hit. My goal is to hit and not get hit. We're going to war. And I want to win. I want zero casualties. I want to go out there and not get hit and knock him out. So it doesn't matter whether he hits hard, doesn't hit hard. I'm trying not to get hit, regardless.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. I guess but I was saying-- I understand that. And I mean, hit and not get hit is the entire game I guess. But knowing that, do you have to affect in your offense when you're considering what type of offense you use and what strikes you look to throw? When you throw, especially when you lead, you open yourself up, right?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. I'm going to bust him up. I'm going to bust him up. And that's it. But yeah. It's going to be a sweet fight. It's going to be a sweet fight. It'll be a sweet chess match. And I plan on going out there and literally piecing him up and not getting hit. But I'm prepared for 15 minutes. I'm prepared to get cracked. I'm prepared to get rocked. I'm prepared to deal with whatever comes in the fight.
KEVIN IOLE: This is a big fight for you, I think. If you win this fight, you're back and you got the momentum on your side. Do you feel like you'll get ranked off this win, especially if you do what you say, stop him and have a big impressive victory? Do you feel like this will rank you, which will then put you in the kind of fights you want to be in?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Probably won't rank me if I beat him. I've never cared about rankings. I still don't care about rankings. I feel like even if I'm unranked, I could fight a top 10 guy just by my name and by the-- depending on the performance, I go out there or win a boring decision, I'm not going to fight no one. I go out there and knock him out in some crazy fashion, I could fight-- I'm not too worried about the rankings. Even when I was ranked 15, I fought Chito. He wasn't ranked. I didn't care. The rankings to me don't really matter.
So but yeah. That's just it.
KEVIN IOLE: You mentioned Francis and Stipe. And I know you understand the fight game so well. So I just want to get your take on that fight. Obviously Stipe dominated UFC 220, took Francis down a lot, beat him. How do you see the main event going? And do you see a path for Francis to win this fight?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. I watched the Countdown. And I saw that he was doing so much media, so much traveling, Francis, before that fight right after a fight. I think he had a lot of room to improve more so than Stipe. I think Stipe's the best. He could win this fight and they could fight again and Francis could still be a favorite. Just he's a scary human being. He has to land one time in 25 minutes. And it'd be cool to see Stipe win. He's the underdog. He's the champ. But I like both of them.
I personally don't-- I'm not affected by if one wins or loses. I'm not necessarily going for one or the other. But I am excited to watch that fight.
KEVIN IOLE: I'm curious. So you can give a little insight into something. You're a guy that's always in the media. You have your own podcast, people like to talk to you, do interviews with you, and everything. And how does it affect you? And how do you deal with it? Because it cuts into your training time, it cuts into your preparation time. You seem like you're good at it. You're one of the best at it. You love to do it. And some guys, they like more to hunker down and not be seen before the fight.
How do you deal with that? And how are you able to kind of not let it affect your focus on what you have to do?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Yeah. During fight camp, I don't do too much. I do a podcast one hour once a week. So the last eight weeks, I did eight hours of podcasting. It's not that much. I hardly streamed at all during fight camp. I didn't do too many YouTube videos. So during fight camp, I really didn't do too much. And then fight week obviously, I had a bunch of media Wednesday, which was fine because [INAUDIBLE] doing nothing else anyway. I'm staying at the hotel.
So going over the Apex, doing the Zoom call. It's just killing time. It's talking about a big fight that I have coming up. So it's something that I obviously care about. Getting asked the same question every interview is a little frustrating. Not frustrating, not even annoying, just like-- maybe annoying. I don't even know the word for it. But I get asked the same question about Chito every time. So it's going to be nice to got out there and knock out Thomas and not have to answer those questions any more.
But I would say I enjoy it. It kills time. I'm burn calories, my brain's going, I'm sipping a little coffee, I'm enjoying it for the most part.
KEVIN IOLE: How soon do you come back after this one? I mean--
SEAN O'MALLEY: Don't know. Saturday night is the last night of my life as far as I'm concerned. I'm going out there prepared to die, kill or be killed. I have no idea who's next. I have no idea when, what's next as far as competing fighting. Fighting's crazy. I could go out there and get kicked in the nerve, and roll my ankle, or I could break my foot like I did against Andre. So I don't know about competing.
I remember before I fought Chito, I was like, I want to fight. I want to be in the title. I want to be do this, this. I don't know. I have no idea as far as who I'm fighting next, when I'm fighting next. I'm pretty focused on Saturday night.
KEVIN IOLE: And let's finish up by just saying, break it down. Where do you think the advantage you have over him is? Obviously two good strikers here. Where's the advantage you have on him? And how will you break him down? And how do you see the fight ending?
SEAN O'MALLEY: Speed and mindset. Those are the two things that I think I'm going to go in there with the biggest advantage.
KEVIN IOLE: So your quickness is going to get you landing and being able to get out of the way of his shots. And do you feel like you finish him?
SEAN O'MALLEY: I do. I feel like I could get the job done within the 15 minutes.
KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. Sugar Sean O'Malley, on Saturday UFC 260. We'll see him on the main card fighting Thomas Almeida. And Sean, always great to talk to, my man. All the best to you.
SEAN O'MALLEY: Awesome. Thank you, Kevin.