Merab Dvalishvili will be ‘heartbroken’ if next fight isn’t for UFC title: ‘This is No. 1 bulls***’

Merab Dvalishvili will be ‘heartbroken’ if next fight isn’t for UFC title: ‘This is No. 1 bulls***’

Merab Dvalishvili can’t make sense of the new UFC bantamweight title picture.

After capping off his division-best nine-fight winning streak with a dominant performance over former champion Petr Yan in March, many assumed Dvalishvili’s next bout would be for a UFC belt. That changed, however, once Sean O’Malley authored a stunning upset over Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292 to kick off a new era atop the bantamweight throne.

Rather than calling out higher-ranked opposition like Sterling or Dvalishvili for his first title defense, O’Malley instead singled out the only man to ever defeat him, Chito Vera. An official verdict on O’Malley’s opponent has yet to be reached, but all indications are that O’Malley vs. Vera 2 is the current front-runner to be the division’s next title fight.

For Dvalishvili, the decision is as baffling as it is frustrating.

“This is No. 1 bulls***, man,” Dvalishvili said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “Chito Vera is 1-1 [over his past two], and his last fight he beat the guy who, from his last eight fights, he has two wins. I respect the guy who he beat last time [Pedro Munhoz], but we all know, man. Who has [Vera] beaten? He’s 1-1 now, he’s ranked sixth. And I beat Jose Aldo, and Jose Aldo beat Chito Vera. Chito Vera doesn’t deserve this.

Islam Makhachev has lost before, and now he’s a champion — if Islam Makhachev calls [out] his opponent [to be] the guy who beat him, it doesn’t make sense, right? Now you are champion. You are on top of the world, you are champion, and you call out the No. 6 guy? Especially when you have a guy like me? I have an nine-fight win streak, and I beat two former champions. I beat the guy with 10-8 rounds, the guy who beat O’Malley, Petr Yan. If O’Malley wants a real opponent, real contender, if he wants respect, he has to fight me.”

Dvalishvili, 32, has been hampered by a hand injury of late but said Wednesday that he’s officially been cleared to resume training and is ready to fight whenever the UFC desires.

The Georgian contender is unbeaten since September 2018 and owns victories over former champions and title challengers alike, including wins over Aldo, Yan, John Dodson, and Marlon Moraes. If not for a short-notice bout in 2020 taking place at a 140-pound catchweight, Dvalishvili’s streak would tie Aljamain Sterling for the longest winning streak in UFC bantamweight history. (Dvalishvili’s eight consecutive wins at 135 pounds currently rank second all-time, as the catchweight bout does not officially count toward the tally.)

So when Dvalishvili sees O’Malley pass over him in favor of a challenger who lost a one-sided decision just this past March, he can’t help but jump to conclusions.

“I guess he looks at me as a bad matchup for him,” Dvalishvili said. “That’s what I’m guessing. Because if he’s smart and if he’s a real champion, he should want to fight with me. Because yeah, I’m a real contender. I’m No. 1 and there is a storyline there. I stole his jacket and I’m Aljo’s friend and I have my story, I’m from the country of Georgia, I came here 11 years ago and I became a professional fighter, now I’m No. 3 in the UFC and my name is Merab. I have a nine-fight win streak, like I said, and if he’s a real champion, he should want to fight with me. That’s how a champion does [it]. They fight the next contender, not choosing somebody from top six.”

“I’m not going to say I will beat him easy,” Dvalishvili added. “O’Malley’s a challenge for me. But I’ve been calling him out since 2018, since my first fight. … I’ve always wanted to fight him. I always want to challenge myself. I always want to fight the guys in front of me and who’s the challenge, and I keep wanting to do this. And if it’s not a rematch now [with Sterling] — Aljo deserves it most, but if not that — I am the next guy, and I’m saying I’m ready, I’m healthy, and I’m going to fight, and that’s it, man. I don’t see why they should not give me this fight. It’s my time now.”

While the UFC has yet to make an official announcement about O’Malley first title defense, “Suga” has largely been dismissive whenever Dvalishvili’s name arises. The champ recently told MMA Fighting that he believes he knocked out Dvalishvili on the same night he knocked out Sterling, citing the fact that the two are close friends and training partners.

Dvalishvili knows he may be fighting an uphill battle.

“I’d be heartbroken [if I don’t fight for the title next],” Dvalishvili said. “Who am I? Nothing I can do. I never choose my opponent. I always accept what the UFC gives me and I’ll be the same. I don’t think they will never ask me anything, but who am I? But yeah, I would love to [have] this fight, and I’ll be heartbroken. But it’s OK, life continues, I’m healthy, my life is good and I’m good. But the right thing is I should fight next for the title.”

Dvalishvili added that he’d be OK waiting for O’Malley vs. Vera 2 to take place in early 2024 if he’s guaranteed the next shot at the winner sometime in the summer.

“I have no problem to wait,” Dvalishvili said. “And if they really, really make this fight, at least they should put me as a backup fighter.”

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