UFC 286: Aussie fighter Casey O’Neal returns from injury, next Australian champion, answer to sexist trolls, Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman
Casey O’Neal speaks with a thick Scottish accent, but she could very well be the next UFC champion in Australia.
The undefeated flyweight returns to the Octagon Sunday (AEDT) at UFC 286 in London against Jennifer Maia on the Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman blockbuster undercard.
O’Neal won her first four fights in the UFC before suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and now she has to catch up and resume her meteoric rise in the rankings.
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When O’Neil says she “lived all over the place” she means it. Born in Scotland, she moved to Australia at the age of 10 and now calls Las Vegas her home.
Asked if she considers herself Australian or Scottish, O’Neill told news.com.au: “Definitely a bit of both. I was born in Scotland, I grew up here until I was 10 years old, then we moved to Australia.
“I spent a lot of time in Australia, learned a lot there and started my fighting path. Both places are very special to my heart.
“This is the first time I’m fighting on British soil so it’s pretty cool for me as I’m from Scotland and I have a lot of relatives who have never seen me fight live, being able to come is very cool and motivating. I’m glad to hear them.”
Can Australia claim O’Neal as their own?
“Yes, Australia can claim me,” she said with a smirk.
“I’m ‘skossi’, as I said, Scottish-Australian.”
O’Neal’s father, Cam, runs the Eternal MMA promotion, which has featured several rising Australian UFC stars, including Jack Della Maddalena, Jack Jenkins and Shannon Ross.
“I’m grateful to my father for opening these doors in Australia and I’m sure many other people are too,” O’Neill said.
“He started it when I was 13. I always told him that I want to fight for him. I ended most of my amateur and early professional career in Eternal MMA, this is his show.
“This is a great feeder process for the UFC. Many people who were Eternal champions ended up doing well in the UFC, like Jack Della, Jack Jenkins, me, Shannon Ross.
“It’s a super cool place to start your career.”
Della Maddalena has made a lightning start to his career, and he and O’Neal are looming as the fighters most likely to become Australia’s next UFC champion.
“I think it will happen soon,” O’Neal said of her dream of winning a UFC title.
“I was on the fast track before I got injured. I had four fights in the UFC, I won all four and got into the rankings pretty quickly, and they moved me up the rankings.
“Obviously it slowed down a bit, but they threw me in first place. 8 (Maya) at once.
“It proves that they still believe in me and I still believe in myself.
“First step is Jennifer Maya on Saturday night and then someone in the top five and then maybe a title winner at the end of the year – that would be amazing. I expect to be fighting for that belt soon.”
Female fighters still struggle with vile insults on social media, and one troll last year called O’Neal a low-level fighter and claimed he could beat her.
O’Neal didn’t like this and challenged him to a fight at the gym, but surprisingly he didn’t accept the offer.
“Just being a female fighter in general – a lot of guys don’t think we shouldn’t,” O’Neal mused.
“Usually I didn’t pay attention to it – I think this guy just caught me on a bad day, and I ended up suggesting that he come down and fight, which I would be more than willing to do, but obviously he didn’t want it in This moment. end.
“I love that it actually shed some light on this because a lot of women do go through things like this or other things that are a bit humiliating.
“When you are an outspoken person, or in some sense a polarized person, you get more hate than most people.
“Men should just mind their own business when it comes to women fighting. I feel like we’ve proven ourselves, that’s all.”
O’Neal calls the women’s flyweight “the most exciting division in MMA right now.”
This may open after Alexa Grasso is over Long reign of Valentina Shevchenko as flyweight champion at UFC 285.
“Obviously, Valentina has been a champion for so long, but as the division grows, the girls get better because we have to get to that level to be taken seriously and have a chance,” O’Neal said.
“I think Alexa, who won the belt, proved how far we have come in the women’s flyweight division.
“I’m just excited to meet someone in the top 10. I thought it would be a cool reward if I could beat someone who was fighting for the belt, that was the next step I had to take.
“Jennifer Mayi’s fight for the belt. She had a good first round with Valentina, she did a lot of things and competed in the flyweight division for a long time. She is a pioneer.
“I’m happy to go there and fight another girl who was there and did it and show that I’m better.”
Originally published as ‘Men should mind their own business’: Australian UFC fighter’s perfect response to trolls