UFC 280: rising star Sean O’Malley to make Abu Dhabi debut against Petr Yan

American set to compete at Etihad Arena on October 22 as number of top-class bouts are announced

Sean O’Malley at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 30, 2022. AFP
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Sean O’Malley, one of the fastest-rising stars in the UFC, will make his Abu Dhabi debut in October in a bantamweight bout against former champion Petr Yan.

The American, 15-1 in professional mixed martial arts (with one no contest), was confirmed on Thursday for UFC 280, which takes place at Etihad Arena on October 22.

The event, the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi for the first time in 12 months, is headlined by the vacant lightweight title clash between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev.

Speaking on Wednesday night to ESPN’s Ryan Clark, O’Malley announced that the clash with Yan was in the works, saying: “I believe I’m better than Petr at what we’re going to do, and that’s fighting.

"And I think that’s what is going to get the job done. I’m going to go in there more prepared than Petr, I’m going to go in there and just do what I do.

“Obviously putting Petr’s lights out would be massive, but I just need to go in there and get the job done against Petr Yan. Three five-minute rounds.

“It’s the best dude I’ve ever fought, hands down, and I’m very excited for the opportunity. And I just believe I’m going to be better on October 22nd than Petr.”

O’Malley, 27, is widely viewed as one of the sport’s most talented prospects and will no doubt feel he has a point to prove in his most difficult test yet. Earlier this month, at UFC 276, an accidental eye-poke on Pedro Munhoz rendered their Las Vegas bout a no contest.

Yan, who is officially the division’s No 2-ranked contender – O’Malley is at No 13 – clinched the vacant bantamweight belt at UFC 251 during the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in July 2020. He went on to lose the title by disqualification to Aljamain Sterling last year, before losing the rematch in April via split decision.

Yan, 16-3 as a pro, also competed in the UAE capital last October, earning a unanimous decision victory against Cory Sandhagen to land the interim belt.

“I'm getting the fight that I wanted and the fight that the people want,” O’Malley said. “In my eyes, Petr is the No 1 contender right now. He's pretty much 1-1 against [Sterling]; he could be considered the champion.

"Going in there and stepping up against a guy like Petr is exciting. It's motivating and it's the biggest fight in the bantamweight division right now."

UFC 280 will also feature Sterling’s second title defence, against former champion TJ Dillashaw, while a top welterweight match-up between Belal Muhammad and Sean Brady has already been confirmed. A lightweight encounter between No 6-ranked contender Beneil Dariush and No 9 challenger Mateusz Gamrot has been mooted, too.

Tickets for UFC 280 go on general sale at 1pm UAE on Friday, via Etihad Arena and Ticketmaster. UFC Fight Club members had the opportunity to purchase tickets early Thursday.

UFC 280, the latest instalment of the UFC’s partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, concludes Abu Dhabi Showdown Week (October 17-23).

Updated: July 24, 2022, 8:15 AM