Las Vegas, NV — It seems as if Merab Dvalishvili has been deserving of a big fight for a while now. But now that it’s here, with the Georgian bantamweight taking on Marlon Moraes at UFC 266, Dvalishvili is treating it like just another fight.
“It’s another fight. I’m step by step moving forward,” Dvalishvili (13-4) told media outlets including Cageside Press during this week’s UFC 266 media day. “Of course this is a big fight, big card. But Marlon Moraes is in front of me, and I’m focused on him. This is another fight for me.”
Dvalishvili has quietly put together a six-fight win streak in the deep bantamweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But the Georgian fighter feels he’s starting to get the recognition he deserves.
“I think I have the respect of [those] who watch the UFC. I’m getting so much love and so much respect from the people, I’m just happy where I am,” he stated. “I’m not complaining about nothing, I’m happy where I am now.”
While all of those six wins have gone to the judges, Dvalishvili also pointed out that he’s made their job an easy one.
“I make their job easy, because sometimes when it’s strikes or exchanges, they score weird. Sometimes you never know where a split decision goes,” said Dvalishvili. “Especially after my first fight, I made sure ‘don’t leave it in the judges’ hands.’ And I win dominantly. When I take people down, I know I’m winning control, and I feel more safe. But I’m not looking to take down Marlon Moraes. I think I’m ready to stand and strike. I’m ready for an exciting fight, and I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
Even though Moraes has lost his last two bouts, Dvalishvili expects a tough fight. “I expect him to come strong, because I have some losses in my career, and every time I lost for some reason, I learned from this, and I came [back] more strong.”
Should he pick up win number seven, Merab Dvalishvili is expecting a big fight next. “I think top five at least. Or somebody [with a] big name. But I know that my next opponent will be somebody with a big name, because the UFC’s top 15, everybody is a big name.”
What won’t come any time soon is a title shot, because Aljamain Sterling, who holds the title, is a friend and training partner. “So many people ask me this question, and I answer this question so many times. Me and Aljo are never going to fight each other. We’re good friends,” he stated — adding that if it came down to it, he’d change weight classes rather than fight his friend.
Watch the full UFC 266 media day appearance from Merab Dvalishvili above. More coverage from the event can be found below.