Sean O'Malley: Conor McGregor levels of stardom 'inevitable' says UFC bantamweight champion

Sean O'Malley celebrates his UFC bantamweight title win over Aljamain Sterling
O'Malley defeated Sterling for the UFC bantamweight title despite being an underdog in the fight.

Reaching Conor McGregor levels of stardom is "inevitable", says UFC bantamweight champion Sean O'Malley.

American O'Malley, 28, knocked out Aljamain Sterling in stunning fashion last month for his first world title.

Despite the growth of MMA, no one is yet to achieve the level of recognition outside the sport as former double champion McGregor.

"100%, I've been saying since the Contender Series I can get there," said O'Malley.

"Just the stats, the analytics, the views, the outlets that are picking up what I do. It's inevitable."

In beating Sterling, O'Malley became just the second fighter after Jamahal Hill to win a UFC world title after earning a contract though UFC president Dana White's Contender Series in 2017.

Immediately following his victory, the UFC released footage of the knockout to a worldwide audience on their social media accounts - something the promotion rarely does due to rights deals with various broadcasters - perhaps indicating they also see star potential in O'Malley.

The clip has been watched over 54 million times across Instagram, X - formerly known as Twitter - YouTube, TikTok and Facebook.

Since debuting on the Contender Series, O'Malley has won nine times in the UFC with six of his victories coming via knockout.

"If you go out there and put on the performances and do the stuff I'm doing, the UFC is going to like it, it's as simple as that," said O'Malley.

"If you give them soundbites to work with, you give them promos to work with, you give them performances to show, they're gonna like you, and that's all I've done."

O'Malley's performance was made more impressive by the fact he went into the contest as an underdog, with the majority of fellow fighters and pundits predicting a successful title defence for Sterling.

American Sterling, 34, was making the fourth defence of his title having beaten three former champions in Petr Yan, TJ Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo, with O'Malley referring to him pre-fight as the "bantamweight goat."

O'Malley says it "felt good" to prove his doubters wrong.

"A lot of your motivation and stuff, when you're deep in training camp, comes from the people that doubt you so it's a little extra fuel," said O'Malley.

"It feels good to see the people who really didn't want me to win, to see them like Henry Cejudo, scared now that he may have to fight me some day."

O'Malley beat Sterling despite also carrying a rib injury which had prevented him from grappling in training for six weeks leading up to the bout.

He admits to the injury initially leading to nerves over the contest, until his unwavering self-confidence overrode them.

"Because I can knock people out you get this certain level of confidence," said O'Malley.

"You can just shut someone's lights out with one punch - not everyone can say that and I've done it over and over again, so it's hard not to be confident."

'There's a 51% chance I fight Gervonta Davis'

Gervonta Davis celebrates his win over Ryan Garcia in April
Davis, who is unbeaten in his 29-fight boxing career, last fought in April, beating Ryan Garcia

O'Malley has called for a rematch against Brazil's Marlon 'Chito' Vera next, who he lost to in 2020 in the sole defeat of his 19-fight career.

But like when McGregor boxed Floyd Mayweather in 2017, O'Malley is targeting a super fight outside the UFC.

O'Malley has goaded multiple-weight boxing world champion Gervonta Davis, and says there is a "51%" chance of a boxing bout between the pair happening.

It is extremely rare for UFC fighters to compete in other formats and promotions, due to the nature of their contracts with the organisation.

"Me versus Gervonta, realistically the chances of that happening right now, I'd give it 51%. It's definitely a possibility," said O'Malley.

"If I've got to pick I'd like to do that sooner than later, but it's a fight that still needs to be built up. I still need to go out there and put on performances and so does he."

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