Merab Dvalishvili will not be challenging Sean O’Malley for the bantamweight title.
Instead, “The Machine” — which appears to be in serious need of repairs — has opted to step aside in hopes that UFC will grant Aljamain Sterling an immediate rematch after getting stopped by “Suga” in the UFC 292 main event last weekend in Boston.
I don’t know if this is loyalty or lunacy, but it’s definitely a head scratcher.
“After Aljamain Sterling, I am the No. 1 contender. We all know that,” Dvalishvili told MMA Junkie. “I have a nine-fight winning streak and I beat two former champions back to back. I fought everybody who they put in front of me. … I think the right way is that Aljo comes back, beats O’Malley, get his belt back, and I think after that he may go up a weight class.”
Sterling recently announced a 2024 return, which may prompt matchmakers to green light the bantamweight rematch between O’Malley and longtime rival Marlon Vera. The outcome of that potential fight could jeopardize Dvalishvili’s longterm plans.
“If he vacates the belt and takes a vacation or something, I will fight for the belt with whoever will be next,” Dvalishvili continued. “Now, I don’t want to rush. I just don’t want any stupid fight, you know, because the fight doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to fight somebody that has a loss. What does this fight get me?”
A paycheck, among other things.
“I want to fight the top guys,” Dvalishvili said. “I don’t want to test, I’m tested already. I proved it. My last opponents I dominated. … I’m the next guy after Aljo. So a good way would be to give Aljo a rematch and after that, I’m just going to wait for my title fight, and we’ll figure it out after. But I’m just going to fight for the title next – even if I have to wait a year or more.”
Fortunately for Dvalishvili, the feeling is mutual.