With a win over former champion Petr Yan on Saturday at UFC Vegas 71, Merab Dvalishvili has inched his way closer to the top. Sitting on that spot, of course, is Aljamain Sterling, a close friend and training partner of Merab’s over at Serra-Longo in Long Island.

During his Octagon interview with Daniel Cormier, Merab stated his willingness to fight for the 135-pound title, but only when “Funkmaster” moves up in weight.

“He’s the real champion,” Merab said of Sterling, who was in his corner that night. “But whenever he decide to go up a weight class, and then fight the next challenger, whoever will be there.

“And then after, I will fight (for) title. Of course, I want to be champion!”

UFC president Dana White was asked about this potential issue during the post-fight scrum, and he had this to say.

“I don’t remember who the hell I was talking to the other day about this, and I was, like, ‘ We don’t have to deal with that bullshit anymore,” he told reporters. “Back in the early days, the camps were so small, you didn’t have a lot of different options. So we had a lot of these guys saying, ‘Oh, he’s my friend, he’s my friend…’

“You can still be friends and want what your friend has. It would be a really bad idea for Merab to go down that path.”

White says the choice is now for Merab to make.

“Does Merab want a shot at the title? Or would Merab rather have people under him jump over him, and him have to take on all these different tough guys when he’s not even getting a title shot when he’s next in line for it.

“That’s a personal decision he needs to make. If that’s what he wants to do, I can tell you how that story ends. It’s not a good ending to that story. But, he’s a big boy, he can figure that out on his own.”

After the win over Yan, Merab is now on a nine-fight win streak with a record of 16-4.

About the author: Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments. (full bio)

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