Casey O’Neill explains why she ultimately declined UFC 269 fight with Maycee Barber: ‘I battled with it for a couple of days’
Casey O’Neill may be just 24 years old, but she’s certainly acquiring an incredible amount of wisdom, surpassing many up-and-coming rivals who preceded her.
O’Neill is now 3-0 in the UFC after her third finish in the Octagon, this time against Antonina Shevchenko at UFC Vegas 38, and entered the official flyweight rankings at number 14. After a second-round TKO victory over Shevchenko, King Said in her post-fight interview that she would like to take a break and improve her skills before returning there.
After about 72 hours, the phone rang.
“So, about three days after the fight, I was called to fight in December,” O’Neill said in an interview with MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “As I said after the fight, I want to take a break. I said it after mine [previous] I also fought, and in the end I got a call to fight Antonina, and I said yes. So now I think I need to spend a little time to improve my skills and be ready for the challenges ahead, because from now on, every fight will become bigger and bigger. “
It turns out that her proposed fight was against Maisie Barber at UFC 269 Pay-Per-View in December. Initial rival Barbera Montana De la Rosa suffered an injury that forced her out of the fight and left an interesting flyweight opportunity that upstart Erin Blanchfield ultimately took advantage of.
When O’Neill received the offer, she admitted that she wanted to accept it. But after talking to the people closest to her in the combat game, she eventually decided to stick with her original plan.
“I said I’ll see him in February if she wants to wait,” O’Neill explained. “I have been struggling with this for several days and I thought, ‘I really want to accept this,’ but I know that I need to listen to the smarter people around me. My coaches and my manager seemed to be saying, “Hey, you are falling behind quickly. If we take that and get another win, we’ll talk about big, big fights after that, and you still want to get better and grow, ”and I.
“I want to go a long way. I want to fight everyone in the division, I want to experience everything along the way so that when I get to the top I can be the next dominant champion. I think this is where people go wrong – the company chases them fast and they like it, they kill their egos a little, they win, and they feel like they can do it, make money and all that. Then they are pushed too fast, they bump into someone they are not ready for, and eventually they are taken out and they will never be the same again.
“I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to burn out early. I’m going to retire as a fighter. I don’t want to do this for two or three years and get a job, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I know this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re gonna take our time, it still hurts a little [to turn it down] but I know there will be opportunities and they will be better next year. “
O’Neill is ultimately happy with her decision to play the long game, especially considering that it was so early in her professional career that started just over two years ago. She knows that a shiny new rating next to her name will now serve as a target for her back and expects her name to be spoken many times into live mics moving forward.
“It was crazy,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t expect to get into the rating, because she didn’t get into the rating when I fought her, but they explained to me that because I got three finishes and was in a winning streak, I got there. It’s really exciting and this is what I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the top 15, I want to be in the top 10, the top five, the champion.
“Baby steps, but now I have the first, first pair of bucket list items checked. I know that now that I’m in the top 15, people will want to call me me, and I’m looking forward to it. “