Casey O’Neill at UFC Vegas 19 in 2021. | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC 286’s O’Neill says there are endless possibilities at flyweight now that long-reigning champion Valentina Shevchenko has been dethroned by Alexa Grasso.

Casey O’Neill says there are plenty of new opportunities for her and her fellow contenders now that there is a new UFC flyweight champion.

Earlier this month, Alexa Grasso dethroned Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285 with a ‘Performance of the Night’ winning fourth-round submission. In her post-fight interview with UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, the ex-champion said the flyweight division would have movement and other fighters could ‘be more alive’ after her loss.

As one of those other fighters, O’Neill confirmed she feels much more invigorated ahead of her return against Jennifer Maia at UFC 286 on Saturday.

“I thought it was very exciting,” said O’Neill at UFC 286 media day (video provided by MMA Junkie). “I’m happy for Alexa. She’s a super nice person and that was a super awesome win, the way that she finished her, and it just makes the division more exciting. More eyes on the division, and the rematch is going to be awesome.

“I think that it’s at that stage now after the growth and development where everyone’s catching up to the champion, and everyone just has to be better, and I think that we all are,” continued O’Neill. “I think that the best prospects in women’s fighting right now are in 125.”

After she improved to 4-0 in the UFC with a split decision win against Roxanne Modafferi at UFC 271, O’Neill received her next assignment – Jessica Eye at UFC 276.

However, a torn ACL forced O’Neill out of her fight with Eye and into surgery, which saw O’Neill sidelined for the remainder of the year. Now recovered, the ‘King’ revealed that she wanted a top-10 name in her return. And after seeing her performance against Maryna Moroz at UFC Vegas 65, the undefeated fighter settled on Maia.

“I asked for this fight. I thought it would be a great fight for me,” said O’Neill. “Before I got injured, I was going to fight Jessica Eye, who was a former title challenger who’d fought for the belt. I thought that was a good next step for me. So Jennifer Maia was a good opponent.”

Maia vs. O’Neill is featured on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 286, which is scheduled for Sat., March 18, at the O2 Arena in London.

About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)

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