O'Malley thinks only he can beat Yan: 'I'm just a different animal'
Sean O'Malley has high praise for UFC interim bantamweight champion Petr Yan, but the rising contender believes he has what it takes to defeat him in a fight.
"I don't see who's going to beat Petr other than me," O'Malley told ESPN's Brett Okamoto.
"I can compete with Petr," he added. "He has more high-level experience with guys - (Jose) Aldo, Cory (Sandhagen), Urijah (Faber). ... But I think I'm just a different animal."
The 27-year-old is set to face Raulian Paiva on the UFC 269 main card Saturday in Las Vegas in a fight that would move him to 5-1 in the promotion with a victory. Neither O'Malley nor Paiva is ranked inside the top 15, so a fight between Yan and O'Malley seems far off.
O'Malley recognizes that but still made it clear that Yan is someone with whom he'd like to share the Octagon in the future - regardless of whether he's wearing the UFC belt.
"I know he's the champ, and you have to beat certain people to get to that fight. But that's a fight that I want eventually," O'Malley said. "That's kind of the end goal. Even if he's not champ, that's a fight I want."
O'Malley said he considers Yan - who claimed the interim title with a decision over Sandhagen in October after dropping the undisputed belt to Aljamain Sterling by disqualification in March - one of the three best fighters in the sport.
The intrigue for O'Malley stems from the fact that Yan is such a high-level competitor and an exciting fighter to watch.
"I just think that's a sweet fight," O'Malley said. "I love his style, his boxing, the way he switches stances, covers up, his defense. He's so good."