When Sean O’Malley turned up to fight week with his hair dyed the colour of his opponent’s native Ecuador, reporters asked Marlon Vera if it bothered him.
“My skin is thicker than his mom, so I’m good with that,” he said. “It’s hard to get in my mind.”
O’Malley is arguably the hottest prospect in the UFC. Before losing a hotly-disputed decision to Yadong Song, Vera had won five in a row. This fight was already a fascinating proposition even before the mental warfare began to sizzle.
When fighters start mentioning each other’s Mothers? Things have a habit of boiling over… Just ask Michael Chiesa.
Sh*t talk or not? It would be a big surprise if this fight didn’t deliver fireworks.
Vera’s winning streak including five stunning finishes.
O’Malley is also something of a stoppage-merchant. His last two fights ended in glorious first-round KO’s. With KO-power, unmistakable style and over a million followers on Instagram, the 25-year-old has all the ingredients to be a star.
He certainly knows how to gauge attention. And it’s not often the world’s media are left constantly asking about a fighter’s hair. Two fights in a row.
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Marlon Vera has acknowledged O’Malley’s skills, but played down the significance of the new ‘do. Speaking at the UFC 252 Virtual media day he said.
“Honestly I don’t really know,” he said. “It could be Venezuela, it could be Colombia it could be Ecuador. It doesn’t have the logo so I don’t know which country he died his hair but good for him you know? I have yellow or blonde, so I’m supporting all the yellow flags out there. We’re free to do whatever the F*** we want. That’s why we picked this sport.”
Vera also believes that he’s a tough nut to crack when it comes to smack talk.
“It’s hard to get in my mind,” he said. “I was the youngest in the family. I got a lot of f**king bullies like my brother, my…everybody! We grew up f**king a lot with each other. Win, lose, draw whatever, I’m here to fight. I’m here to put on a show, and Saturday night my paycheque is going to grow.”