The rise of Aljamain Sterling through the bantamweight ranks has been paralleled by a similar surge up the 135 pound division by one of Aljo’s teammates, Merab Dvalishvili.
The pair have been brothers in arms in one of the deepest divisions in the promotion in recent years — and having claimed gold, Sterling is not about to stand in the way of the Georgian’s own shot at glory.
Asked about the possibility of fighting his teammate by a fan on social media, Sterling replied that he’d rather move up a weight class than fight Dvalishvili.
“After Merab’s next win, I will probably have to move up, to allow him his chance that he earned, to make history for Georgia to win a world title,” wrote Sterling. “We will figure it out.”
Such a move could potentially mean vacating the UFC’s bantamweight championship, assuming that Sterling (21-3) still holds it when the time comes. Currently, the champ does not have a fight booked, but names like T.J. Dillashaw, Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, and even Henry Cejudo are all in the mix.
The 32-year old “Funk Master” has not lost a fight since 2017. He captured the UFC’s bantamweight title in controversial fashion, winning via DQ when Petr Yan connected with an illegal knee that left him unable to continue at UFC 259 last year. But Sterling also won the pair’s rematch, picking up a split decision win at UFC 273 to put the matter to rest.
Dvalishvili (14-4) has won seven straight fights dating back to 2018. He earned a Performance of the Night bonus in his last outing, at UFC 266 against Marlon Moraes.
Currently, Merab Dvalishvili sits at #6 in the UFC’s bantamweight rankings. Like Sterling, he does not currently have a fight scheduled.