Marlon Vera doesn’t believe Sean O’Malley beat Petr Yan, but still thinks Sugar should be next in line for the title anyway.
O’Malley faced Yan in a popular bantamweight bout at UFC 280, winning a split decision after three hard-fought rounds. The win immediately drew criticism as a rip-off, and while Vera doesn’t entirely agree, he doesn’t think O’Malley won the fight either.
“Many had 3:0 in favor of Jan. I had 2:1 with Jan,” Vera said on air on Monday. Hour of MMA. “O’Malley’s body language was body language, ‘I lost the fight.’ Then, when it was given to him, I thought it was a gift decision, but then again, damn it. The guy won the fight. I think now next to his name will be No. 1, but I believe that it was a gift. I think he got the decision gifted, but we’ll see what happens. It was a close fight. Both guys are hurting each other and I think it comes down to takedowns and time limits.”
Vera and O’Malley share a history. “Chito” was the first man to defeat O’Malley, stopping him at UFC 252 in 2020. O’Malley never admitted that the defeat was legitimate, claiming that the result was solely the result of an injury, and the two men have since butted their heads due to the fight. However, Vera says that many of the people who downplayed O’Malley before his fight with Jan were far from right.
“For all the people who say he sucks and talks, I never thought that,” Vera said. “I always said before that the guy can fight, he is talented, he has the tools. I think he’s the only one who is really surprised that he can prove himself in front of everyone because I really think he can fight. I think the power is in his hands. He’s kind of a snake, but so are the rest of the division and the rest of the top 15. At this level, anyone can hang out with anyone.
“The level there is almost the same. It’s who prepared better, who did enough reps, who spent more time on it, and who can stay longer and not catch up. So this guy can fight, but the whole division can too.”
O’Malley’s victory was not only the biggest of his career, but could also be a seismic shake-up for the bantamweight division. Prior to the fight, O’Malley and Dana White said that the win would likely earn him his next title shot; however, White subsequently suggested that former champion Henry Cejudo might be next in line. It would be a difficult outcome for O’Malley, which Vera disagrees with even if he understood it.
“As a fighting fan, anyone who beats the #1 contender should be fighting for the belt, right? It’s obvious, Vera said. “O’Malley, no matter what ranking he’s in, he beat #1, he should be fighting for the belt. But overall everyone thinks it was a gifted decision, everyone thinks he got the pass, which could probably hurt what the UFC does with him.
“The same thing happened with the fight with Son Yadong. I got robbed, they gave me a fight with O’Malley, then they gave me [Jose] Aldo fights. I advanced after the defeat. So O’Malley got the gift of decision, maybe they’re doing the same thing, they’re probably holding him a little, getting somebody else to do it. But let’s see. Again, it’s up to Dana and the UFC. Let’s see what they want to do.”
And if O’Malley is somehow missed, Vera would like to reap the rewards if he had a choice.
“I’m a selfish jerk, so I’ll say it myself,” Vera said when asked who deserves the next title shot. “May be [I will get it]. I said before this fight that the decision is up to Dana White and the UFC. We can say whatever we want, I can go crazy, I can waste all my energy, but it depends on the UFC. This they will decide. It is they who will choose the next contender for the title. I’m ready though. If they call me, I will gladly do it. If they call me the No. 1 contender, I will gladly do it too.
“I don’t stumble. I’m in a great mood. I’m just going to keep getting better. I’m using all this time to keep improving, keep working, and by the time they call me, I’ll be ready to put on another show, put on another person. I’m not chasing anything. I’m not going to do anything. The main goal is the belt, but in order to get the belt, you need to win, and that’s what I’m doing.
Vera last competed in August this year, knocking out former two-time bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in the UFC main event in San Diego.