LAS VEGAS – Merab Dvalishvili wants a title shot, but he’ll decline if offered.
It’s an unusual predicament, one that is oftentimes considered but never actually experienced by UFC contenders. His best friend and main training partner Aljamain Sterling happens to be in the same division – and happens to be champion.
With his performance Saturday at UFC Fight Night 221, Dvalishvili (16-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) may otherwise have secured himself a title shot with a dominant, smothering performance of former titleholder Petr Yan (16-5 MMA, 8-4 UFC).
However, Dvalishvili, who has indicated positivity is a pillar of his character, isn’t bothered by the circumstances that have him passing on an opportunity many other fighters would snatch in a heartbeat.
“I’ll fight anybody (else),” Dvalishvili told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “I want to be busy, and I’ll fight anybody. I want to be busy. Whoever. Whoever the UFC chooses for me to fight, I’ll fight. I don’t have no problem. This a good problem to have: two best friends, two teammates. My best friend is champion, and I’m one of the top (contenders). This is a good problem to have. We are cleaning the division.”
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The collective plan among the LAW MMA team is for Sterling to defend his title May 6 against Henry Cejudo at UFC 288 in Newark, N.J. After that, a title defense against Sean O’Malley might be in the cards.
While it’s been hinted Sterling might make a featherweight attempt to reach new heights in the sport and clear the way for him at bantamweight, Dvalishvili said he could drop to flyweight if he wanted, though it’s unlikely.
“It would be a tough cut, but it’s possible,” Dvalishvili said. “Right now, I’m comfortable at 135. I don’t want to make any changes right now. It’s possible because I cut only 20 pounds. I do an old style. I don’t use a hot tub. I don’t use water loads. I just do my own something crazy and I always make weight. I don’t think right now. It’s possible for me to make 125 but I don’t see why I should do that right now.”
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Dvalishvili might have to fight one more time before Sterling vacates and he seems at peace with that. March 25 at UFC on ESPN 43 in San Antonio, two top contenders, Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen square off. Dvalishvili welcomes the winner.
“Absolutely. I would love to fight the winner of them,” Dvalishvili said. “I would love to. Actually, Aljo was saying he wants to go watch this fight and I would love to go, too. Let’s see. If they want to give me that fight, I’ll take it. Look, someone asked me before. I think the winner of this, if they had to fight me, let’s see what the UFC chooses. I’m willing to fight anybody. No problem.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 221.