When Sean O’Malley shocked the world by defeating Aljamain Sterling and taking the UFC bantamweight belt at UFC 292, Sterling’s friend, teammate and fellow bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili called for Sterling to get an immediate rematch.
“Why did you even get into this sport if that’s your mentality in the way that you think?,” Dana White responded in a press conference shortly after Dvalishvili campaigned for Sterling. “‘I don’t even want the title, I don’t want the championship. We’re friends, we’re this, we’re that.’ … “If you don’t want to find out who the best in the world is this is not the place for you. You should be somewhere else. There’s plenty of places to fight where they don’t give a **** what you do. Doesn’t work here.”
Merab Dvalishvili confused and stressed by Dana White’s stance
For his part, newly minted champ Sean O’Malley seems most interested in avenging his UFC 252 loss to Marlon Vera. Despite O’Malley having declared himself undefeated after the loss it appears the champ would like to make it official in the cage.
If that is the direction that the UFC decides to go, then it’s a move that seems to have left Merab Dvalishvili entirely befuddled.
“Sometimes I feel really stressed,” Dvalishvili told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I’ve never been [in a situation like] this. It’s just hard, you know? I’m so close and I’ve been training hard and everything, I always was focused on my next fight, my next fight, and I was going step-by-step.
“But now I know [my] next [fight] should be for the title and I don’t want to go backward and fight somebody, because every fight is risky, you know? And why do I have to risk challenging myself, cutting weight, and anything can happen. I can break my leg and if this happened in the fight and I lost a fight because of my injury or something, I’m going to lose my opportunity for the title fight. But this is big for my country, Georgia.”
“The UFC never offered Aljo or me to fight each other,” Dvalishvili continued, speaking of the idea that he had put his friendship over his fighting career. “I don’t understand why they complain to us [about] we’re not fighting. Yes, of course. I say I don’t want to fight out Aljo, and I don’t want to fight Aljo, but if the UFC offers the fight and if UFC maybe offers good money, or if we are in a situation [where] there is no one else that we can fight, that maybe me and Aljo, we sit like always and maybe we can fight.”
Bloody Elbow’s Zane Simon thinks Merab deserves the shot: “By all rights, Sean O’Malley’s first title defense seems like it should go to Merab Dvalishvili. The ‘Machine’ is on a 9-fight winning streak, including victories over two former champions and two former title contenders. Add to it a built in feud with O’Malley having just recently trounced Dvalishvili’s friend and teammate (plus the whole jacket stealing incident) and it seems like the narrative is right there waiting.”
But alas it appears that Merab and the pundits can talk all they want but Sean O’Malley has big plans to headline a PPV in early 2024, and Dvalishvili probably won’t be his opponent.
Here’s what O’Malley told Joe Rogan on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast:
“I really, really did truly want to fight in December,” O’Malley revealed. “Like when I called out Chito in December, but I talked to UFC and they kind of already had [plans]. They were trying to get Colby [Covington] and Leon [Edwards] together.
“I asked them — they want me to main event my own show, which I think it’s dope. I’m down with that.”
Sorry Merab, life and the UFC are not fair.
Bloody Elbow merch now available
Bloody Elbow is pleased to announce our partnership with Revgear. They have been a pioneer in the MMA gear industry and have grown into a formidable brand and true leader in the market. Revgear now have Bloody Elbow t-shirts, hoodies and hats so you can show your support for independent MMA journalism.
Daniel Cormier moved to light heavyweight for Cain Velasquez
There’s another well-known instance of a UFC contender refusing to fight a friend and teammate. But it was one that didn’t seem to set off Dana White’s ire in the same way. I’m referring of course to Daniel Cormier’s famous refusal to face Cain Velasquez when Cain held the UFC heavyweight title.
“I don’t want to fight Cain (Velasquez) but I also want to start living life a little healthier, I’ve got kids now,” Cormier said on a 2013 broadcast of UFC Tonight. “A lot of fans have asked me to go down to 205, they’ve been asking me since I started fighting. So now I’m doing it, but I’m starting to put the earnest on them, I want them to do it with me.”
Dana White may have still been unenthusiastic about the idea of teammates who didn’t want to fight one another way back then, but it seems DC’s decision to go for a different weight class left the UFC boss a lot less ticked off than the current situation between Aljamain Sterlind and Merab Dvalishvili.
“I have so much respect for both of those guys,” White told reporters at the post-fight presser for UFC 155. “They can go wherever they want. If they want to fight each other at heavy, I’m cool with that. If [Cormier] wants to go to 205, I’m cool with that. Either way.”
Again, sorry Merab but if you don’t want to fight your friend, you might want to consider moving to a different division because things are lonely at the top of these pyramids and there’s no room for the UFC to accommodate personal considerations when they’re trying to book title fights.
Join the new Bloody Elbow
Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Connor Reubusch. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.
About the author