May 25, 2024

‘Wave it off’… Coach finally details the truth behind Sean O’Malley’s ‘sparring KO’ of UFC champion

A seemingly routine sparring session between a young Sean O’Malley and one UFC champion has caused uproar in the MMA community this week.

Vastly different stories have emerged as O’Malley struck back following a story of being ‘smashed’ in a training bout by Alexandre Pantoja. The flyweight champion is due to defend his belt tomorrow night at UFC 301 against Steve Erceg.

But one sparring match from over half a decade ago has kept rearing its head as the fight moves closer. The 125lb champion has noted that he has “history” with his bantamweight counterpart, and recounted the aftermath of the meeting.

Alexandre Pantoja claims he ‘smashed’ Sean O’Malley in sparring

The as-yet-unseen sparring footage was first brought back to the public’s attention in an interview with the New York Post when Pantoja told a story from the gym. He claims that the incident was recorded, but that he was never sent videos after the fact.

Pantoja, after speaking to a friend who had seen the spar happen live, believes that the reason he has been kept from the footage is that he “smashed” the future bantamweight champion.

At the time both men were young in their respective careers after breaking into the UFC through Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter. And Pantoja says he got the better of O’Malley during their brief session.

“He said some bad things about that [sparring] but that’s crazy because he recorded the sparring and at the end of training I said, ‘Hey send to me the video and then I can see our training’ and he never passed the training to me.”

“I asked [his friend] ‘Can you talk with your friend for send the video’, and he said to me ‘Hey, he’s not going to send to you bro, you smashed him’.”

Sean O’Malley’s coach sheds new light on infamous Alexandre Pantoja sparring

O’Malley has disputed that series of events, but one third party who may have clearer knowledge of the situation has made his feelings clear. Coach Tim Welch has told fans that the dispute comes down to the bantamweight landing a big liver kick which caused a temporary stoppage in the action.

Pantoja had been brought to the gym by legendary two-weight world champion Henry Cejudo, who suggested that the pair spar. Speaking on his stream, Welch recalled: “Henry wanted Pantoja to spar ‘Suga’ one round. Me and ‘Suga’ were probably taking bong rips the night before.

“We were snacking out, not really in fight camp at all. Going to sparring maybe to get a few rounds and Henry’s like, ‘Hey, you want to spar this guy?’ So Sean says, ‘Yeah, I’ll spar him.’ They spar one round.

“Sean comes out off the rip, puts him down. Puts him down in the first minute. Now mind you this is, I don’t even remember what year this is, I don’t even think Sean was a professional yet, he might have been a professional just breaking in.

“So when you go from three-minute rounds as an amateur to five-minute rounds it’s a big jump and the pacing is different. Everything’s different, it’s way longer of a fight.

“Sean comes out there, bounces around, young buck. Boom, hits him with a liver shot, puts him down, Pantoja has to stop, he has to wave it off, he has to go over to Henry, kneel down, call it off. I mean there’s a video, never released video but he puts him down.”

Welch then clarified that had the pair been in a true professional fight, Pantoja likely would have battled through that kick. But he noted previous O’Malley fights against Eddie Wineland and Thomas Almeida, who are bigger athletes, where a similar kick led to a stoppage through other means shortly after.

Sean O’Malley gives his take on Alexandre Pantoja sparring session

In response to Pantoja’s recent comments, O’Malley simply declared on X that the session was finished quickly. He posted the brief message “Twas a first round TKO,” in response to a viral clip of the New York Post interview.

O’Malley has since teased the release of the footage, asking fans on X: “Pantoe Keeps bringing up the sparring from like 6 years ago, Not me. Should I post or no?” He later added “Might make highlight reel n post. Idk.”

Alexandre Pantoja of Brazil poses for photo prior to the UFC 301 at Sugar Loaf on April 29, 2024 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC

And in an old episode of The BrO’Malley podcast, the bantamweight gave more details, saying: “Does he want me to post it? I finished him in the first round. I can post that, I wasn’t going to bring it up, if that’s what he wants. That’s funny – I mean, does he forget how it played out?”

“I will say in the third round he choked me,” admitted O’Malley, before adding how at the time, “I was like 1-0 or 2-0 as a pro, he was coming off ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ making his UFC debut… I was f****** smoking joints the night before.”

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