Merab Dvalishvili Wants to Take Sean O'Malley’s Belt, Jacket in Future Title Bout

UFC
February 20, 2024
Merab Dvalishvili cemented his spot as the bantamweight division’s No. 1 contender with his unanimous decision triumph over Henry Cejudo at UFC 298.

UFC CEO Dana White confirmed that the Georgian standout would be next in line at Saturday’s post-fight press conference while praising his performance against Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist and former two-division champion.

“He looked good tonight. He did what he had [to do],” White said. “In my opinion, you can’t take three years off in a combat sport. It’s never done well for anybody. Cejudo looked great in the first round. I thought he started to gas out in the second round. Merab just got stronger as the fight went on.”

Dvalishvili himself acknowledged the slow start, but he was clearly in control over the bout’s final 10 minutes.

“I think I’m getting better every round. If it was five rounds, I’m sure you guys could imagine what was going to happen. I guess I don’t warm up in the locker room good,” he said with a laugh.

Heading into UFC 298, there was some debate as to who was the better wrestler between Cejudo and Dvalishvili. When all was said and done, “The Machine” held a 5-to-1 edge in takedowns landed, according to UFCStats.com. Still, Dvalishvili believes his opponent might be the better overall pure wrestler. But that doesn’t matter under MMA rules.

“If we go wrestling rules, I’m sure he’s a better wrestler than me,” Dvalishvili said. “But this is MMA. It’s totally different… This is a different sport. I respect wrestling. But now when I watch wrestling, it’s too boring.

”Dvalishvili’s current winning streak spans 10 bouts — nine at 135 pounds — and includes victories over luminaries such as Cejudo, Petr Yan and Jose Aldo. While he was pleased to learn of White’s No. 1 contender confirmation, it wasn’t exactly a surprise at this point.

“I have another challenge,” Dvalishvili said. “That’s the only goal I have now, fight for the title and win the belt. I believe in myself. I’m only getting better. Every fight looks so much easier. Really tonight, I wasn’t even really breathing [hard]. I was very comfortable.

“This is only the beginning. I have so many years left of me because I live a healthy lifestyle. I change little things in my life to be full-time fighter. Just training hard, training smart and I’m just grinding.”

Dvalishvili plans to be in attendance for the bantamweight title clash between Sean O'Malley and Marlon Vera at UFC 299 in Miami on March 9. If anything goes awry during fight week, he will be ready to step in as a backup.

“I’ll be ready. I can make weight in five days, no problem,” Dvalishvili said. “If they need a replacement, I will be there. If not, I will enjoy my time and I will keep training like always. I will face whoever will be champion.”

Though Dvalishvili will be willing to face whoever is victorious, he does have a preference. And if O’Malley does best Vera, as he hopes, the Georgian plans on taking more than his belt.

“I want to fight O’Malley because I was calling him [out] since 2018,” Dvalishvili said. “He’s champion now. I wish he would keep the belt and I can fight him. I want to take his belt. I saw today he was wearing nice jacket, so I want his white jacket.”

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/news/Merab-Dvalishvili-Wants-to-Take-Sean-OMalleys-Belt-Jacket-in-Future-Title-Bout-192668

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