The path to the UFC bantamweight title just got more complicated for Merab Dvalishvili, but that’s fine with him.
The streaking UFC bantamweight contender has been labeled by many as the No. 1 contender in the division and was expected to fight for the belt in the near future. However, things didn’t go according to plan this past Saturday, and now it looks like Dvalishvili (16-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) will have to wait longer.
Aljamain Sterling was hoping to defend his belt against Sean O'Malley at UFC 292 in Boston, and then move up to featherweight, leaving his friend and teammate with the opportunity to fight for the vacant belt. Unfortunately for Dvalishvili, Sterling was stopped by O’Malley, and it seems he’s out to get an immediate rematch.
Dvalishvili wants to see his friend get the opportunity. If the rematch does happen, the 32-year-old doesn’t want to fight any other contenders. Dvalishvili plans to wait for the next title shot.
“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, beat O’Malley, get his belt back, and I think after that he may go up a weight class.
“If he vacates the belt and takes a vacation or something, I will fight for the belt with whoever will be next. 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?
“I want to fight the top guys. 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.”
Dvalishvili hasn’t lost since suffering a technical submission loss to Ricky Simon in his second UFC fight back in 2018. Since, has picked up nine consecutive victories, defeating notable names such as Jose Aldo, Marlon Moraes, John Dodson, and Brad Katona.
“The Machine” last competed in March, when he dominated former champion Petr Yan in a unanimous decision. Dvalishvili has been recovering from a hand surgery since.