UFC 248: After two-year layoff, Sean O’Malley looks to realize star potential

Mar 1, 2020Brett OkamotoESPN Staff Writer CloseMMA columnist for ESPN.com Analyst for “MMA Live” Covered MMA for Las Vegas SunGLENDALE, ARIZONA — IT was March 2018, shortly before Sean O’Malley’s first appearance on a UFC pay-per-view card, when he got a small, fake tattoo of a star just below his left eye.A star, because that’s…

UFC 248: After two-year layoff, Sean O’Malley looks to realize star potential

Mar 1, 2020Brett OkamotoESPN Staff Writer CloseMMA columnist for ESPN.com
Analyst for “MMA Live”
Covered MMA for Las Vegas SunGLENDALE, ARIZONA — IT was March 2018, shortly before Sean O’Malley’s first appearance on a UFC pay-per-view card, when he got a small, fake tattoo of a star just below his left eye.A star, because that’s what O’Malley believes he’ll be when it’s all said and done. And fake, because, you know … tattoos are permanent.”I’m stupid enough to get a tattoo on my face,” a grinning O’Malley told ESPN recently. “But I’m smart enough to get a fake one to see if I like it first.”Today, O’Malley has three tattoos on his face. Real ones. He got the star done permanently after the unanimous-decision win over Andre Soukhamthath at UFC 222. He has since added his nickname, “Suga,” above his right eyebrow and the word “breathe” written backward just under his hairline.The 25-year-old bantamweight is covered in tattoos, and most of them are little more than what O’Malley refers to as “random s—,” but the ones on his face have meaning — “breathe” in particular.It’s the least visible of O’Malley’s body art, thanks to the luscious mop of curls atop his head. He has to consciously pull his hair back in order for anyone to see it, and even then, because it’s written backward, it’s not immediately clear what it is.Which is fine. It’s not for anyone but him.O’Malley, who returns from a 24-month layoff to face Jose QuiƱonez at UFC 248 on Saturday in Las Vegas, got the tattoo to remind himself, basically, that it’s all good — that the other tattoos on his face still apply. The “Suga Show,” as he calls it, has not been canceled. And he’s still on track to become an MMA star.It was important for O’Malley to remember that during the past two years, when it felt like he’d never get to perform again.”Every time I look in the mirror and I’ve got my hair up, it reminds me to breathe,” O’Malley said. “I got it after I got suspended.”O’MALLEY’S FATHER, DAN, is a retired narcotics officer still living in Helena, Montana, where O’Malley grew up. Last year, after Sean failed a drug test for the banned substance Ostarine — one of multiple positive drug tests he has submitted in the past two years — Dan went to Phoenix to visit his son.”We were talking about not knowing where the Ostarine came from,” Dan said. “And I watched him open the refrigerator door and slam it shut, and he yelled, ‘I don’t even know what I can eat. I can’t eat.’ Just the unknown of where it came from — watching Sean go through that and knowing how conscious he is of everything he eats and drinks — that moment always stands out.”O’Malley hasn’t made a UFC appearance since that pay-per-view debut due to the failed tests, which the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) ultimately ruled were consistent with unintentional use.Despite two years of testing his food and supplemen
Read More From Publisher