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Surgically repaired Merab Dvalishvili won’t be ready for Henry Cejudo in August: ‘I need three months to punch’

UFC 288 Press Conference Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Merab Dvalishvili won’t be fighting anytime soon.

The current No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contender has found himself targeted by the recent title challenger and former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo. After dropping a tightly-contested split decision loss to reigning champion, Aljamain Sterling, at UFC 288 earlier this month (May 6, 2023), Cejudo opted not to re-retire and instead set his sights on Dvalishvili.

Ideally, “Triple C” wanted an Aug. 19, 2023 date with “The Machine” in Boston, Massachusetts at UFC 292 on the same night as Sterling’s next title defense against Sean O’Malley. Unfortunately for both, Dvalishvili physically won’t be able to compete until his recently injured hand is back to 100 percent.

“I was injured before my last fight,” Dvalishvili told The Schmo (h/t MMA Junkie). “I punched somebody in the gym, and I broke some bones. I was injured, but I still fought [Petr] Yan. I needed surgery, [which] I did last Tuesday. Now I’m recovering. I will be able to punch in three months, and I will be able to train again in six weeks. But punch, I need three months to punch.

“No, I won’t be able to fight because I need to train again,” he continued. “I need to get ready. I don’t think I’ll be ready for August. But maybe, we’ll see, another time. For sure [in the fall or late 2023]. I’m gonna start running soon. I’m gonna start swimming. After this will be to heal up and everything. I’ll be ready, man.”

Dvalishvili’s last victory was undeniably his biggest yet, extending his winning streak to nine with a shutout unanimous decision over the former titleholder, Yan. Despite his upcoming layoff, Dvalishvili is still open to a challenge like Cejudo once he’s able to get back in the Octagon.

“I’m a fighter,” Dvalishvili said. “I know he’s an Olympic-champion wrestler, but this is MMA. I can fight anywhere. Even if he wants wrestling, no problem. Everybody knows my wrestling is too good — for MMA. Olympic rules, of course, he will beat me, like in straight wrestling. But straight MMA is where it counts.”

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