Merab Dvalishvili, the rising star in the UFC bantamweight division, finds himself in a perplexing situation. Not only is he dealing with the ire of fight fans but also facing criticism from none other than the UFC’s head honcho, Dana White, over his friendship with Aljamain Sterling, who recently lost his UFC bantamweight championship to Sean O’Malley at UFC 292.
White didn’t mince words when he questioned Dvalishvili’s career choices, essentially asking why he got into MMA if his loyalty to his longtime friend and training partner, Sterling, would hinder his path to the championship belt. However, rather than clarifying things, White’s comments left Dvalishvili even more befuddled.
“I don’t understand it,” Dvalishvili admitted during an interview on The MMA Hour. “Maybe I don’t understand, maybe I don’t know. I’m a real fighter, and what I know is what I deserve. My job is to fight, and I’m ready to fight, and that’s all I know.”
Dvalishvili’s credentials speak for themselves. At 32 years old, he boasts an impressive nine-fight win streak in the UFC, leading the bantamweight division in this regard. He’s also ranked among the top bantamweights in the promotion, trailing only O’Malley and Sterling. However, it seems that this might not be enough to secure him the title shot he’s been eyeing for so long.
After O’Malley’s victory, the new champ decided to skip over Dvalishvili as a contender and called out Chito Vera, who is ranked at number 6, for his first title defense. While the UFC hasn’t officially confirmed O’Malley vs. Vera as the next championship bout, it’s a move that would leave Dvalishvili on the sidelines. This is understandably frustrating for him, especially after navigating a gauntlet longer than any non-champion in UFC bantamweight history.
“Sometimes I feel really stressed,” Dvalishvili confessed. “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?”
Indeed, every fight comes with its own set of risks, and Dvalishvili doesn’t want to jeopardize his shot at the title. He’s not willing to take a step back when he’s so close to realizing his dream. Representing Georgia, he recognizes the significance of potentially becoming the first fighter from his country to compete for a UFC title.
“No Georgians have fought for the title yet, so that will be so big for my country and for my career,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this opportunity. I don’t want to miss this chance. And I want what I deserve, you know? I think I deserve to fight for the title, and I think I earned that too.”
Adding to Dvalishvili’s frustration is O’Malley’s dismissive attitude whenever his name comes up. O’Malley has even claimed that he’s already “dispatched” Dvalishvili due to his impressive knockout of Sterling at UFC 292. For Dvalishvili, this is just more of the same rhetoric he’s grown tired of hearing.
“That doesn’t make sense,” he asserted. “Me and Aljo, we are friends, we are teammates, but come on. My name is Merab Dvalishvili, I’m ranked No. 2, Aljo’s No. 1. So how did [O’Malley] beat me? It doesn’t make sense. I’m a new challenge, and he should fight me.”
Dvalishvili also addressed the criticism of his friendship with Sterling, highlighting that they are not just friends but also teammates who push each other to be their best. Despite their close bond, the UFC has never offered them a fight against each other.
“I don’t understand why they complain to us [about] us not fighting,” Dvalishvili said. “Yes, of course. I say I don’t want to fight 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. But now they make a big deal [about us being] friends?”
In the end, Dvalishvili’s frustration is palpable, and he’s eager to prove that he deserves a shot at the bantamweight title. His journey in the UFC has been marked by hard work and determination, and he’s not about to let anything stand in his way, not even the complexities of friendship and loyalty in the world of mixed martial arts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about title shot
Q: Why is Merab Dvalishvili facing criticism from Dana White and fans?
A: Merab Dvalishvili is facing criticism primarily due to his close friendship with Aljamain Sterling, especially now that Sterling is no longer the UFC bantamweight champion. UFC CEO Dana White expressed his concern over how Dvalishvili’s loyalty to Sterling might hinder his career progression in MMA, which led to significant scrutiny.
Q: What is the current situation with Merab Dvalishvili’s career in the UFC?
A: Merab Dvalishvili has an impressive nine-fight win streak in the UFC’s bantamweight division and is among the top-ranked fighters in the promotion. However, despite his achievements, it appears that he may not be granted the title shot he has been working towards. Sean O’Malley, the new bantamweight champion, has chosen to defend his title against a lower-ranked opponent, leaving Dvalishvili frustrated and feeling like the odd man out.
Q: Why does Merab Dvalishvili want a title shot so badly?
A: Dvalishvili sees a title shot as a significant opportunity not only for his career but also for his home country, Georgia. No Georgian fighter has competed for a UFC title before, and Dvalishvili wants to be the first to represent his nation on such a stage. He believes that he has earned the right to fight for the title through his hard work and dedication in the sport.
Q: How does Merab Dvalishvili respond to criticism about his friendship with Aljamain Sterling?
A: Dvalishvili defends his friendship with Sterling by emphasizing that they are not just friends but also teammates who push each other to excel in their training. He points out that the UFC has never officially offered them a fight against each other, and he doesn’t understand why there is so much focus on their friendship when discussing potential matchups.
Q: What are the challenges Merab Dvalishvili faces in his quest for a title shot?
A: Dvalishvili faces the challenge of feeling stuck in his career due to the current situation with the bantamweight title. He doesn’t want to risk fighting someone else and potentially losing the opportunity for a title shot. Additionally, he is frustrated by the dismissive attitude of the current champion, Sean O’Malley, who claims to have already beaten him.
Q: What does Merab Dvalishvili want to achieve in his UFC career?
A: Merab Dvalishvili’s ultimate goal is to fight for the UFC bantamweight title. He believes he deserves this opportunity and is determined to represent his country, Georgia, on the big stage. Despite the challenges and criticism, he remains focused on his goal and is eager to prove himself in the octagon.