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Top-ranked contender will fight friend for Bantamweight belt, but will cost Dana White $10 billion | UFC 288

Merab Dvalishvili wants to make it abundantly clear that he will never fight Aljamain Sterling under any circumstances.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight division has begun repeating history seen in divisions such as Heavyweight in years past. At a time, teammates and best friends, Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, appeared to be on a crash course with each other in the title picture. However, both men admitted they’d never fight if presented with the must-do option.

The No. 1-ranked contender, Dvalishvili, is now in the same spot with his best pal, Sterling, as Cormier once was with Velasquez. Reigning champion, Sterling, will next defend his crown against former titleholder, Henry Cejudo, at UFC 288 on May 8. The challenger recently expressed his hopes of having Dvalishvili as the fight’s back up fighter, but “The Machine” has no time for such possibilities.

“Maybe weird because ‘Aljo’ is showing up then I’m not fighting ‘Aljo,’ so if they want to make me fight ‘Aljo,’ maybe they have to pay $10 billion. Then yes, I’ll be ready,” Dvalishvili told The MMA Hour. “Otherwise, I don’t need to be back up. ‘Aljo’ will show up. It’s a question if Henry shows up, you know? Let’s see.

“He was away a couple years already and now let’s see and we will see all talk will be done,” he concluded. “We will see a real champion.”

Sterling is afforded the luxury of welcoming Cejudo back to the Octagon for the first time in three years. “Triple C” last fought in May 2020, defeating Dominick Cruz via a second-round technical knockout (knee and punches).

Should Cejudo pull off a huge victory in his return, Dvalishvili would very likely be next in line, looking to extend his current win streak to 10 straight. Sterling has already noted he’ll be moving up to Featherweight soon to give his teammate a proper title opportunity.

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