O’Malley (17-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) claimed the bantamweight title when he TKO’d Sterling in this past Saturday’s UFC 292 headliner at TD Garden in Boston.
O’Malley was sharp, precise and able to fend off Sterling’s grappling for the most part. Johnson is widely considered one of the greatest fighters of all time but was humble in his assessment of how a potential fight with O’Malley would go if it happened now.
“Dude, me vs. O’Malley, that would be a hard-ass fight,” Johnson said on his MIGHTYcast podcast. “A very, very hard fight. There’s a guy in our gym … he moves just like ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley. He’s long, skinny, rangy, moves, that karate background, spinning back kicks, tries to land that right hand. I have a hard time with him in the gym, just because I’m trying to cross distance the whole entire time.
“But when I finally do cross that distance, I have my clinch game, I have my jiu-jitsu, I have my wrestling is where I actually think I might be able to excel against ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley. But I have to be a realist. Trying to get to him, where he’s much longer, he might even be faster than me now that I’m old as sh*t compared to some people out there being 37 years old. He’s longer, he’s faster, he’s a way cleaner striker than I am. It would be so hard just to get to him.”
When Sterling (23-4 MMA, 15-4 UFC) was champion, he said Johnson, a former UFC flyweight champion, would be too small to fight him. Johnson fired back saying he’d destroy Sterling in the clinch and thinks O’Malley would pose a lot more threats to him.
“That would be a way tougher fight than fighting Aljamain Sterling,” Johnson continued. “When I see Aljo, I’m like, I like that fight because he likes to come forward, he loves to cross distance. Maybe he doesn’t do it very good – excuse me, he does it good, but he exposes his chin like we saw the other night. But that fight against ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley, I’m a realist, that would be a very, very extreme fight.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 292.