LAS VEGAS — It’s been a surreal week for Helena native Sean O’Malley (8-0) as he prepares for his UFC welterweight debut Friday night against Terrion Ware (17-6) in Las Vegas at the Ultimate Fighter Finale.
“It’s been awesome. I’m super excited,” O’Malley told MTN Sports after his official weigh-in at the Monte Carlo. “I wish I was the main event, but co-main will have to do.”
He paused and smiled.
So how does a rookie fighter claim the co-main event spot on a nationally televised broadcast in the biggest promotion in combat sports? He earned it with quick hands, hard work and brutal knockouts that tend to go viral as fast as fans and media can put the video on Twitter.
And he doesn’t see any reason that trend will stop this week.
“This kid is super tough. He has over 20 fights and has never been finished with strikes,” O’Malley said. “I know he’s going to stick around a little bit, but you can only be so tough when I hit your chin so many times. He’ll be tough first, second round – but he’ll fall, though.”
So far they’ve all fallen. O’Malley is perfect in eight professional fights, including the one earlier this summer at the UFC Contender Series that caught the attention of UFC president Dana White and led to a contract.
“He’s such a great athlete, such a hard work ethic,” said O’Malley’s training partner and fellow MMA fighter Tim Welch. “A lot of people are great athletes, but they’re not really sure of themselves. But he knows he’s a champion in his mind.”
And though O’Malley is on the verge of becoming a household name in mixed martial arts, he certainly doesn’t forget his roots. Montana made him tough, and Montana will be watching Friday in person and at home as O’Malley attempts to become the first Treasure State native to win a UFC fight.
“Support from Montana is really what got me here in the beginning,” O’Malley said. “Getting down to Arizona about three, four years ago, all my sponsors back home really helped me get down to Arizona and be able to live there and train.”
O’Malley isn’t the only Montanan on the fight card. Butte’s Ariel Beck (4-4), who was recently a cast member on the The Ultimate Fighter, will step in the octagon against Shana Dobson (2-1) in the prelims.
The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale begins at 8 p.m. (MST), O’Malley’s fight is the co-main event and will be the second-to-last fight on the card.