Throughout his professional MMA career, Sean “The Real OC” O’Connell has been recognized as one of the most kind-hearted fighters in the business. Given his weigh-in antics – which this time included a mini New Year’s Eve party, complete with confetti – and his general honesty about the sport, it is hard not to root for OC. Still, he went into the PFL Championship against Vinny Magalhaes as a massive +500 underdog. Prior to this fight, Magalhaes was on a streak of blowing through strikers that seemed to possess similar skill sets to O’Connell’s, finishing four straight opponents in less than two minutes.
Early in the fight, it looked like your typical Vinny Magalhaes fight. The takedowns came early and he appeared in control, but O’Connell, unlike all before him, managed to survive. Each time he returned to his feet, he was greeted with a wave of confidence as frustration grew for Magalhaes. In that first round, Sean O’Connell proved that he is more than a striker. In five minutes, he fought his way out of a deep heel-hook, a rear-naked choke with both hooks in, and another RNC with a body triangle on him. This survival caused Magalhaes to empty his tank and play into O’Connell’s game.
As the frustration grew for the Brazilian World Champion grappler, the fight turned into more of a brawl than a grappling match. Sean O’Connell was rewarded for weathering the storm and with the fight now in his world, he landed heavy strikes on his opponent. Dropping him multiple times throughout the second round, the veteran refused to follow Magalhaes to the ground and forced his dazed opponent to keep eating shots on the feet. After two identical rounds of sloppy takedown attempts and knockdown after knockdown from O’Connell, the corner of the -700 favorite, Magalhaes, called off the fight, giving us an unlikely champion.
Immediately following his incredible win, O’Connell collected his $1 million prize and announced his retirement.
“It’s never going to be easy to walk away from this sport, but there’s no better way to do it than on a high note in front of all my friends and family,” O’Connell said as he parted ways with fighting.
O’Connell acknowledged that while this was his last time competing, he would never leave the sport. PFL gave him the chance to join their commentary booth and he feels he has found a life after fighting. For this and the general layout of PFL, O’Connell seemed very thankful. He showed support for the idea that fighters can be paid life-changing money and all they have to do is win fights. For so long, fighting has been about promotion and rightful contenders being left out of title fights. PFL seems to have no interest in that and only wants the best to fight the best.
In the future, Sean O’Connell looks to explore his opportunities in broadcasting, radio, and writing. He is also preparing to welcome a child into the world. Retirements rarely come in fairytale way that it did for Sean O’Connell. One of the most light-hearted competitors the sport has ever seen can now walk away with financial security and a world title. Through winning the PFL Championship, Sean O’Connell proved that he is more than just a fun time at weigh-ins; he can beat some of the best fighters on the planet. In doing so, he opened the door to pursue his future in the entertainment industry for a life after fighting.
When asked if he would ever consider coming out of retirement to fight again, O’Connell simply laughed and said “oh, there’s a number.”