Sean O’Malley respects ‘cringey dude’ Henry Cejudo’s skills, but says his antics are ‘hard to watch’

Sean O’Malley is a big fan of Henry Cejudo’s fighting skills. But “The King of Cringe’s” persona away from the cage? Not so much.

A rising star in the bantamweight division, undefeated O’Malley (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has become one of the most popular fighters on the roster after just three UFC fights.

Although he’s in no hurry to get fast-tracked, O’Malley’s ever-growing popularity could potentially lead to a title shot earlier than expected if he continues the sort of outstanding form we’ve seen from him so far, including in his most recent outing, when he dispatched Jose Quinonez at UFC 248.

Meanwhile, reigning UFC bantamweight champion Cejudo has taken a specific route to notoriety, dubbing himself the “King of Cringe,” flashing his gold, using props and creating call-out videos. But while O’Malley certainly respects Cejudo’s fighting credentials, he admitted he’s not a huge fan of the way the current champ has chosen to promote himself.

“I wouldn’t consider that working for him,” O’Malley told MMA Junkie. “I think he’s definitely trying, but he’s just trying too hard and it’s hard to watch. And I guess that’s the way they’re going for – the cringe – but I think he could have taken that a different route. I don’t know. I think as a champ, he’s beat some really, really good dudes. Yeah, he’s really good – but he’s just a cringey dude.”

Cejudo was scheduled to face Jose Aldo at UFC 250, but the travel ban restrictions in Brazil due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced Aldo out. Now Cejudo is expected to face another fighter coming off a loss – former champion Dominick Cruz – on May 9.

O’Malley admits it’s a little strange to see Aldo and Cruz getting title opportunities, especially when there is no shortage of in-form contenders vying for a shot. But he also understands where the promotion is coming from by booking notable former champs against the reigning belt-holder.

“Yeah, it’s super weird,” O’Malley said. “That Jose Aldo fight, I definitely thought he won against Marlon (Moraes). … Dana’s like, ‘No, I thought he won that fight, I’ll give him a title shot.’ So it’s pretty cool Dana has that power and it’s his company, (but) it’s pretty weird coming off a loss.

“I mean, Cruz deserves it in a sense – all the injuries he’s had to deal with and how his career went, so I don’t know. I wouldn’t be upset with him getting it but there’s also guys like (Cory) Sandhagen and (Aljamain Sterling) that probably deserve it more, coming off wins. Yeah, that’s a tough one.”