Sean O’Malley had an interview leading up to UFC 264 on the Schmozone Podcast where he talked about the criticism of him not fighting a ranked opponent. On the podcast with coach Tim Welch by his side, O’Malley talked about not fighting a ranked opponent on Saturday — but also mentions, he isn’t ranked either.
The MMA community seems adamant that he should be fighting a ranked opponent, despite O’Malley being unranked. There is no doubt that he is a very charismatic fighter and it is obvious the UFC sees star quality in him. However, the UFC has an extremely poor record when it comes to hype trains. When Conor McGregor debuted, the UFC handled him extremely well and appropriately increased the level of challenges every fight. This is the approach UFC needs to take with O’Malley in order to continue building him up. While you have to think a ranked opponent is not far around the corner for O’Malley, he is doing nothing wrong taking this fight.
O’Malley is 26 years old, got either performance of the night or fight of the night in four of his last five fights, and has only lost once. There is zero reason for O’Malley to rush into fighting ranked opponents. Especially not on short notice after Louis Smolka pulled out.
The bantamweight star is in a very interesting place, where it really does not matter who is across the octagon from him, people will watch. He is absolutely doing the right thing fighting unranked fighters since he is unranked himself. Although with all this being said, don’t be surprised if he calls out Rob Font or somebody else ranked assuming he picks up the win on Saturday night.