Eddie Wineland is only focused on winning — even if he would be derailing a hype train in Sean O’Malley in the process.
Wineland returned to the win column at UFC 238 last June against Grigory Popov and is looking to make it two victories in a row. The former bantamweight title challenger now meets O’Malley on the main card of UFC 250 on Saturday in what is a classic veteran vs. prospect matchup.
O’Malley is more than a prospect though.
Given his name value and popularity, it would seem the UFC has a vested interest in having him win en route to becoming a potential superstar for the promotion. That’s no problem for Wineland, 35, who feels this is a big fight for both competitors.
That said, he has no qualms about potentially handing “Sugar” his first professional defeat.
“It’s a big opportunity for me. It’s a big opportunity for him, also,” Wineland said at virtual media day on Thursday. “He’s fighting a veteran. I’m fighting a guy who — he’s got a huge name. Although he’s been in the UFC not that long, he’s got a very big name, a very big following.
“So as far as derailing? It is what it is. They set us up to fight. If it derails him, it derails him. I’m sorry, but I’m here to win. I’m not here to lose.”
Many are already counting Wineland out.
Plenty of fans are regarding him as a stepping stone for O’Malley while oddsmakers don’t see him getting the win on Saturday either. The casual audience O’Malley brings to the table will likely not see him being much of a threat as well.
As for what Wineland thinks? He simply doesn’t care about all that.
“I really don’t care,” Wineland said. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. I’ve been been doing it since 2003, before it was even the cool thing to do. I started doing this when we were fighting in bars making up our own rules, so I don’t care. I like to fight. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m still here. I’m competitive, I like to fight.”
Wineland went on to add that he felt better at 35 than he did when he was 25. And given his exciting style, his bout with O’Malley could be a potential Fight of the Night contender.