‘King’ Casey O’Neill (3-0) has surged to be one of the leading fighters in the women’s strawweight division on the local scene.
Dating back to August 2017 and including her amateur career, O’Neill has recorded eight wins on the trot and she is looking to extend this even further when she faces tough challenger Caitlin McEwen (5-1) at Eternal MMA 51 on Saturday night.
Working hard towards her fighting future, O’Neill was offered the opportunity to relocate to Thailand and train at the world-renowned Tiger Muay Thai camp mid last year.
“I did the Tiger tryouts and headed home. They offered me a sponsorship that involves a year of free training. Pretty soon, I was back in Thailand on a one-way ticket. I’ve had one fight under Tiger so far and keen to get more in.”
Over the past eight months, the 22-year-old has immersed herself in the wealth of knowledge that has surrounded her at Tiger Muay Thai.
“It’s changed the level that I’m at.
“Obviously working with the Hickman Brothers has helped. Frank and George’s wrestling knowledge is phenomenal and the striking out here is great as well. The high level of training partners is something that is hard to find in the one spot in Australia.
“Until I came to Tiger, I never really had too many girls as training partners. Having high-level girls to train with and being able to go hard without worrying about injuries has helped my game. I would say it’s just made me a better fighter all around,” she continued.
Away from the gym, O’Neill has made changes in regards to her management. Casey is now under the guidance of Ruby Sports and Entertainment who currently manage the careers of over thirty fighters on the UFC roster.
“I think there will be a lot of big opportunities after this fight. I’m already ranked as the number one pound-for-pound women’s fighter in Australia and New Zealand (Per tapology.com which does not include fighters signed in international promotions). Caitlin is the number two ranked pound-for-pound. So after moving up a weight class and beating Caitlin, it will be obvious that I deserve a fight internationally. I’m sure Ruby will seek good opportunities and we’ll go from there.”
Casey, a natural strawweight explains that her move up a weight class to flyweight has become a necessity on the local scene.
“We’ve been struggling to find opponents for me to fight. Taking big breaks is not optimal for where I’m at in my career. Not having a fight since October and with this being the only option, we decided to take it. This is my first flyweight fight as a pro with a full camp.”
Caitlin McEwen is the most experienced opponent that Casey has faced thus far and is coming off an impressive first-round win on the ONE Warrior Series. Nevertheless, O’Neill is full of confidence ahead of their fight.
“She’s a jiujitsu girl. In her past two fights, she won by armbar in the guard. I think that she’ll be looking to take me down too but I’m not easy to take down and my jiujitsu is better than both of the girls that she just beat.
“So even if it goes to the ground, I’ve got it there. I’ve got it anywhere that the fight goes. I’d like to keep it standing and just punch her in the face over and over for three rounds.
“That would be nice,” she added.
With rumblings that O’Neill is on the radar of the UFC and the fact that UFC 251 will be coming to Perth in June, the opportunity to get another solid win in Perth is not lost on her.
“I’ve already fought in Perth a couple of times and getting another good win there would definitely put me on the radar for the UFC 251 card. I’m definitely ready to jump in there if they want me to.”
When asked how she would fair against the elite strawweights in the UFC, O’Neill’s response was firm.
“I back myself against any strawweights in Australia and internationally. I think I would do well against most of them. I’ve got a good tall range for that weight division, my juijitsu I’d back it against anyone and I’m not afraid to make a fight dirty if it needs to be.”
In transit from Thailand to Perth, Casey has done all she can do to prepare for her Eternal 51 bout.
“Preparations are all done. George and Frank (Hickman) have put a lot of time into me at Tiger for this camp. So I’m feeling confident and just ready to fight.”
See two of Australia’s best face other at Eternal MMA 51 ‘King’ Casey O’Neill faces Caitlin McEwen at Perth’s HBF Stadium on February 29. You can catch all the main card action on UFC Fight Pass.