UFC just officially announced a Bantamweight title fight between Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo at UFC 288, which will stream live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) from inside Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on May 6, 2023.
And already “Triple C” is anticipating Sterling will pull out of the 135-pound showdown.
A clash between Sterling and Cejudo has been brewing since “Funkmaster” defeated an injured T.J. Dillashaw back in Oct. 2022 (watch highlights). After initially being targeted for March, the bout was pushed back five months. And even that looked shaky right up until UFC finally declared the fight signed, sealed and delivered on Saturday.
Former Flyweight and Bantamweight “double champ,” Cejudo, will be competing for the first time in three years ... and he clearly wants to make sure all contingencies are taken into account. And after watching Merab Dvalishvili handle Petr Yan with relative ease at UFC Las Vegas this past weekend (March 11, 2023), he asked the promotion to add Dvalishvili as a backup.
“So, dear Dana White, I’m over here watching the No. 2 and 3 contenders and I’ve got a feeling that [Aljamain] is more likely to back out of this fight,” Cejudo said on Twitter. “So that being said, why don’t you give me Merab? Why don’t you give me Merab since Sean O’Malley wants to wait, he wants to take his time. Why we don’t make Merab the backup at UFC 288? Why don’t we do it that way.
“That way it’s both of these training partners, because I have a feeling Aljamain is going to eventually back out,” he continued. “And I want to make sure. Because it’s the same gameplan for both of these chumps: wrestle, strike, every time they throw something heavy they go in for takedowns.
“Anyway, Dana White: if you’re listening to me, let’s have Merab as a backup. Newark, New Jersey. UFC 288. I want both of them. I’d fight both of them the same night, they can both get it.”
Dear @danawhite I want @MerabDvalishvil as a back up. Let me show you what I can do. #andnew pic.twitter.com/PJPjRXfOee— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) March 12, 2023
Dvalishvili has made it crystal clear that he will never fight Sterling. The two aren’t just training partners, they’re close friends. And despite Dana White’s warnings that refusing to fight the champ because he’s your friend is a bad idea, Dvalishvili doesn’t seem like the type of dude to go back on his decision.
He may not even have to wait very long for Sterling to no longer be the Bantamweight roost-ruler. Aljo has been talking about a move up to 145 pounds, which could happen after one or two more title shots.
And that would mean Dana White and Co. would have to back up the Brinks truck to possibly bring the “Sugar Show” to the “Garden State.”
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