More Sports


Sean O’Malley mania builds in Montana ahead of UFC 299 title defense

Posted at 12:31 PM, Mar 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 16:48:01-05

GREAT FALLS — “Suga” Sean O’ Malley, a Helena native, is already the most high profile athlete from Montana. He became Montana’s first UFC champion when he beat Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweoght title at UFC 292 in August.

But ahead of his first title defense against Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC 299 in Miami next week, fight fans are about to see a lot more of the “Suga Show” in the Treasure State.

Life has certainly changed for the O’Malley family since Sean won the title. But they’re hoping to leverage the attention to bring more shine to Sean’s home state.

“To me, it seems like we’ve gotten a lot more attention,” said Sean’s father, Dan O’Malley. “And Sean and I really want to put Montana in the spotlight with Sean.”

Sean recently signed a deal with Ryse Fuel energy drink. And starting this month, you’ll see his signature Cotton Candy flavor in Town Pump stores across Montana.

“All 107 Town Pump stores agreed to get the Ryse Fuel energy drink in. And the cotton candy flavor is fitting it goes with Sean's pink hair,” Dan said. “There will be six foot cardboard cut outs of Sean. They're going to display him and all their bigger stores and we’re super excited about that.

“Just cool to see a little Helena, Montana, kid get that much recognition.”

The O’Malleys also worked with Universal Athletic to get three Montana signature shirt designs in stores throughout the state.

“My vision is if you're going have a UFC 299 watch party at your house, it’d be cool to get a bunch of Suga Sean shirts,” Dan said. “It was nice of Universal Athletic to step up and say, ‘hey, we really want to support this kid, want to support Montana.’

“I can envision a lot of families in Montana, and there are a lot to support sean, that would like to wear one of the shirts during his fight. So that's exciting.”

Aside from the merchandise. Sean is also supporting Montana causes, including one that’s near and dear to his heart.

“He's sponsoring quite a bit of money to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics,” Dan said. “Sean's love and passion is Special Olympics, so he's sponsoring that with quite a bit of money. So wanting to give back to Montana as much as he can.”

There was a narrative early in Sean’s career that he distanced himself from Montana when he moved to Arizona to train. But his father said that’s not the case. Whether it’s supporting local causes, or making appearances at college football games, O’Malley is as much a Montanan as he ever was.

“Sean really appreciates all the Montana support. It's cool to see Sean give back to Montana,” Dan said. “For a while, he was so busy with his career that I think that kind of took a backseat, but not anymore. Any time I call Sean for anything Montana related, he's ready to do it and willing to do it.”

Not bad for a skinny kid from Helena, Montana.