UFC 280: Title-chasing Sean O'Malley seeking 'iconic' knockout of Petr Yan in Abu Dhabi

Hugely popular American faces toughest test to date on stacked card at Etihad Arena in October

Sean O'Malley during his bantamweight bout at UFC 276 against Pedro Munhoz in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty
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Sean O’Malley has described the UFC 280 card for Abu Dhabi as “legendary”, setting sights on delivering an “iconic” knockout against Petr Yan to land himself a title shot.

The American, one of the most popular fighters in the sport, was last week added to the October 22 event at Etihad Arena, when he faces former bantamweight champion Yan on an already stacked bill.

The fight night, the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi for the first time since last October, features two championship bouts: Charles Oliveira against Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight crown, and bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling’s title defence against former belt-holder TJ Dillashaw.

UFC 280 will also comprise a top welterweight clash between Belal Muhammad and Sean Brady, and a promising encounter between in-form lightweights Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot.

O’Malley, who fights outside the United States for the first time, will no doubt prove one of the star attractions in the emirate. He is 15-1 in professional mixed martial arts with one no contest – this month’s bout with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 was called off after O'Malley accidentally poked his rival in the eye.

Speaking in London this weekend at the UFC 280 launch press conference, O’Malley said: “I'm very excited to be fighting in Abu Dhabi. I am sure it will be a legendary card and, if I can go out there and put Petr's lights out, it will be iconic.

“Pretty much any card I am on is going to be a huge card. I don't think you can build a card like this without me on it, and I am going to be one of the main attractions on it.

“The Abu Dhabi crowd can expect a very interesting fight with me and Petr, the two best-striking bantamweights. They can expect fireworks, and they will get fireworks.”

In Yan, O’Malley takes on his toughest test to date in the UFC. The Russian, the division’s No 2-ranked contender – O’Malley sits at No 13 - previously held the bantamweight belt having secured the vacant title at UFC 251 during the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in July 2020.

Yan, 16-3 as a pro, went on to lose the strap by disqualification to Sterling last year, before suffering defeat in the rematch in April via split decision. Yan has won both his bouts in the UAE capital, with the most recent coming at UFC 267 last October when he defeated Cory Sandhagen by unanimous decision to seal the interim belt.

O'Malley said: “Obviously, I haven’t gotten to prove [I belong at the top]. That Pedro fight didn’t really end the way I wanted it to. But I think I proved I can hang with the top-10 guys. Jumping up to the No 1 guy, this is a huge test and I believe I will rise to the occasion.”

Asked whether a win against Yan would earn him a title shot, O’Malley responded: “One-hundred percent.”

Tickets for UFC 280, the latest event in the long-term partnership between the UFC and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, went on sale on Friday.

Updated: July 24, 2022, 8:49 AM