"I Wish Petr Yan To Be More Modest". Dvalishvili Talks About Fighting Cejudo, UFC Title And Topuria

Marina Magomedova
16 Feb 2024

Georgian bantamweight fighter Merab Dvalishvili, who is riding a nine-fight win streak, will fight former double champion Henry Cejudo on February 18 at UFC 298 in Anaheim. The winner of the fight is expected to become the next title challenger.

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Merab Dvalishvili
Merab Dvalishvili

In an exclusive interview with Telecomasia.net, Dvalishvili said:

  • who he would fight if he defeats Cejudo;
  • what is his attitude towards Sean O'Malley;
  • who he will support in the fight between Petr Yan and Song Yadong;
  • named the funniest fighter in the UFC;
  • and gave a sharp response to the question about hair transplants.

- What were your takeaways from the fight between your friend Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo?

- I realized that Henry Cejudo is a very tough, strong fighter of the top level because I know how strong my friend Aljo is. Cejudo did more than I expected him to do. It was a great fight.

- Is it safe to say that he is as strong after his comeback as he was when he was a champion?

Merab Dvalishvili
I can't say that he's gotten stronger or that he is just as strong, but I expect to see the best version of Henry Cejudo. It's a big legacy fight. He has so many fights and titles. He's back because he's still fit and wants to be a champion again. Also, of course, he is a professional fighter and he takes everything seriously: his training, his preparation, no matter if it's a fight with me or just some regular fight.

- UFC didn't give you a five-round fight like you wanted. Do you think it was their decision or was it Henry who refused?

- Unfortunately, we don't have a five-round fight, I don't know why. But I'm only going to focus on what I can control. Right now I have a three-round fight and I'm focusing on that, rather than anything else. I'm just going to go out there for this fight and it doesn't matter if it goes three rounds or five rounds. I signed the contract and now all I have to do is make weight and show up there. Of course, it would be better if we fought five rounds, but three rounds is fine too. Right now, I don't really care.

- If you beat Сejudo, who will be your next opponent?

- I think it will be the winner of the Chito Vera and Sean O'Malley fight.

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- What do you think of Sean O'Malley? You don't think the judges help him in close fights because he is very popular in the US?

- He's a popular fighter and he's also a talented fighter. Sure, the organization promotes him a little bit and supports him more than other fighters. That said, he's certainly dangerous. As for the judges... I remember his close fight with Petr Yan where they helped him a little bit, but also he's a really good fighter.

- Did you have a beef when you stole his jacket before his fight against Sterling?

- It wasn't a big deal. When my friend became champion and O'Malley came into the octagon out of nowhere, he suddenly acted very cocky and was always talking trash. I was there to make a show, but I didn't mean any harm. I just stole his jacket and made fun of him with that jacket. But that was then, and later we met at the UFC Performance Institute and shook hands.

We're professional fighters and we shouldn't act like kids. For me, there was nothing personal about it. The only thing is, in 2018, I challenged him to a fight because he seemed like a big challenge for me. I wanted to fight him, but I wasn't given that chance until now. Hopefully though, now he wins his fight against Vera, I'm going to win the upcoming fight. And then we will fight and find out who is the better fighter.

Merab Dvalishvili and Aljamain Sterling
Merab Dvalishvili and Aljamain Sterling
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- You've said that you believe Ilia Topuria can beat your favorite fighter Alex Volkanovski. Why is Topuria superior to the champ?

- I think Ilia is a good wrestler. He can do clean takedowns and defends well against them. Ilia's punching is at a very high level - he can throw combinations and drop people with both liver and body shots and head kicks. He has knockout power and good jiu-jitsu. He also has good stamina. He is also very well prepared mentally and has a lot of confidence. He doesn't just say he can beat him, he believes it, and that's very important.

Alex Volkanovski is coming off a loss right now and is probably asking himself, «He's got a hard shot, what if I'm going to get knocked out again?». These little things are going to trouble Alex. Besides, a lot of people have started to say his era has come to an end. You never know how a knockout can affect you. Not many people can come back from something like that and fight at the same level. I think all of those things are going to make a difference.

- Your former opponent Petr Yan is going to come back soon. Do you believe he will be able to get back to the same level?

Merab Dvalishvili
I believe it because he's a top level fighter, I know that. To be honest, I will cheer for him in this fight and I want him to win because I don't mean him any harm. Maybe I don't really like him personally, but he was my opponent and I support all my opponents

I wish him all the best and above all to be more humble. Had he been more humble, he would have been fine. I wish him to win against another top opponent Song Yadong and I hope that Petr will win this fight, get back to the top 5 and we will do the same thing we did before.

Merab Dvalishvili and Petr Yan
Merab Dvalishvili and Petr Yan
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- Sometimes you do absolutely insane but funny things. How do you find ideas for these jokes?

- Most of my videos are totally realistic, like when I taught Henry Cejudo how to pronounce my last name, then we did a skit about something that happens in my division where the champion has a rematch with the number six and if the latter wins he asks for a rematch again. These things annoy me.

Then I made a video with Henry Cejudo’s coach, when I told him I want him to coach me now. Making such videos together is part of my life. I like to laugh at myself and have fun. Now I have a friend who can make good videos and now it's easier for me to do it with him.

Merab Dvalishvili, Eric Albarracin (Cejudo's coach) and Aljamain Sterling
Merab Dvalishvili, Eric Albarracin (Cejudo's coach) and Aljamain Sterling

- Who is the funniest guy in the UFC, among those you follow?

- Paulo Costa is a funny guy on the Internet, but in person he is not like my friend Aljo, who always brings positive energy. My doctor always makes good jokes, my friend and teammate Chris Weidman is also very funny. We love jokes and good vibes. But as far as the Internet is concerned, Paulo Costa does the craziest stuff.

- You have new hair now. How did you feel about a lot of people joking about your hair transplant surgery?

- I don't care what those people think. I got my hair transplanted and it's my own business. I lost my hair and then I had it replanted again and I don't care about those people. I was interviewed by two other publications before you and they also asked me about my hair.

Merab Dvalishvili
Merab Dvalishvili
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Nobody asks me about it but you, even my friends don't talk about my hair. It is very personal. I don't think it's a good question, but it all depends on you.

- The question wasn't about your hair, but about your attitude to jokes about it in the comments.

- I like jokes and I even share some of them on my Instagram. If people laugh at me, it's not a problem. I laugh with them too if the joke is good.

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