BOSTON (AP) — Aljamain Sterling is known for his ground game. Sean O’Malley is known for his striking.
On Thursday, they traded verbal shots at a news conference ahead of their main event match for UFC 292, with Sterling’s bantamweight title on the line.
Singing the theme to ESPN’s top-10 highlights, O’Malley played to the crowd saying, “Sugar Sean O’Malley knocks out Aljamain Sterling.”
O’Malley, of Glendale, Arizona, received a more favorable reaction from the crowd in Boston, while Sterling, of Uniondale, New York, played the heavy.
Sterling, who is making his fourth title defense, referred to O’Malley as “high-fructose corn syrup,” and said he was going to “pour him into the Boston River.”
“You’re soft, soft, soft,” Sterling said. “Who have you fought?”
The 34-year-old Sterling (23-3) won the title in March 2021, with a disqualification victory against Petr Yan. HIs last title defense was in May, when he won a split decision against former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo. Sterling also has a 10-fight wining streak dating to December 2017, when Marlon Morales knocked him out with a knee.
The 28-year-old O’Malley is 16-1. He was the winner of the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017. His last fight was a split decision victory against Yan in October 2022. His only loss came against Marlon Vera by TKO in August of 2020.
Saturday’s fight against Sterling will be O’Malley’s first five-round bout.
“I’m always going for the knockout,” O’Malley said. “I can win in multiple ways.”
In the co-main event, Zhang Weili of China defends her strawweight title against Brazil’s Amanda Lemos.
“Amanda is a very strong fighter, a very good fighter,” Zhang said through an interpreter. “But I will be like water. Bruce Lee said ‘Be like water.’”
Lemos, speaking through an interpreter, countered by saying, “I will drink that water.”
The 34-year-old Zhang is 23-3 and making the first defense of the title she regained in late 2022, with a submission victory against Carla Espaeza. She lost the title the first time against Rose Namajunas in April 2021. She had won it against Jessica Andrade in late summer 2019.
After losing a rematch with Namajunas in November 2021, she’s won her last two fights.
Lemos is 13-2-1. The 36-year-old has won consecutive fights after a loss to Andrade in April of 2022.
In her last fight, Lemos defeated Marina Rodriguez by TKO in November 2022.
This is the first time the UFC has hosted a promotion in Boston since a UFC Fight Night in October 2019. In the main event that night, Dominick Reyes knocked out former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Weidman is back. The 39-year-old is facing Brad Tavares in the final preliminary bout on Saturday. At 15-6, Weidman has split his last two bouts since the loss to Reyes. In his last fight in April 2021, Weidman sustained a broken leg in a loss to Uriah Grant. The injury required two surgeries.
“I feel like a prospect again,” Weidman said. “I’m going for knockout of the year, breakout fighter of the year. I want to win a title again.”
For UFC President Dana White, it’s a return to his hometown.
“It always feels good to be back here,” White said. “We have an awesome card. We’ve sold out. We have the highest gate we’ve had here and one of the highest live gates for any event at the TD Garden.”
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