Fresh off his win over Petr Yan earlier this month, Merab Dvalishvili was reportedly offered a May 13 main event slot against undefeated Umar Nurmagomedov.
Per a report from Aaron Bronsteter, a representative with Dominance MMA confirmed that Dvalishvili would not accept the offer, citing an injury. Merab Dvalishvili’s manager Oren Hodak confirmed with Bronsteter that ‘The Machine’ is currently dealing with an injury, but also revealed that his fighter has no interest in committing to anything until May’s bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo is in the books.
“Merab just fought and he fought injured. Nothing to talk about until the May 6 (bantamweight) title fight happens anyhow,” Hodak said according to a Tweet from Bronsteter.
‘The Machine’ climbed to the No. 1 spot in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings following his 25-minute destruction of former 135-pound champion Petr Yan. Apparently, the promotion felt that an adequate reward for his performance against the former titleholder was a main event slot against a fighter still sitting outside of the top ten. Instead, Dvalishvili has his sights set on a bantamweight clash with top contender Cory Sandhagen.
“Merab is interested in tasting that Sandhagen sandwich that was on the menu and comes at a much more high profile extra value meal compared to a guy not even in the top 10,” Hodak reportedly added.
Cory Sandhagen is fresh off a split decision victory over Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera at UFC San Antonio on Saturday night.
Merab Dvalishvili’s Reluctance to Fight Aljamain Sterling Will Make Him Nothing More Than a Stepping Stone For Other Fighters
With an undefeated record of 16-0, Umar Nurmagomedov is considered by many to be the future of the UFC’s bantamweight division. It appears as though the promotion was attempting to fast-track his status as a title contender at the expense of Merab Dvalishvili by offering ‘The Machine’ a May matchup with the Dagestani standout. That decision was likely influenced by the fact that Dvalishvili has said on more than one occasion that he will never fight his best friend and teammate Aljamain Sterling, the reigning UFC bantamweight champion.
It now appears that Merab Dvalishvili will instead sit back and wait to see what happens at UFC 288 when Sterling puts his title on the line against Henry Cejudo. If ‘Funk Master’ manages to escape the Prudential Center with his title intact, Dvalishvili will be left in limbo and likely used as nothing more than a stepping stone for other fighters given his reluctance to fight the champ.
The best-case scenario for ‘The Machine’ is to see Henry Cejudo reclaim the bantamweight title on May 6. Even then, he could be potentially passed up for a title opportunity in favor of the more marketable Sean O’Malley.