UFC Las Vegas’s Merab Dvalishvili: “We Are Clearing the Division,” Open to Sandhagen-Vera Winner Next

Las Vegas, NV — Georgian bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili’s resume is starting to look like a hit list of the who’s who in the UFC’s 135lb division.

At UFC Las Vegas, “The Machine” dominated his second straight UFC champion, schooling ex-bantamweight king Petr Yan to cap off the pair’s heated rivalry. He also extended his current win streak to nine.

Many onlookers were shocked at the one-sided affair, which saw Dvalishvili hold his own on the feet, chewing up Yan’s lead leg, and dominate on the ground, where he had the clear advantage.

Dvalishvili himself wasn’t surprised, though he did feel a fair bit of pressure coming into the fight, he admitted following the event, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press at The Theater at Virgin Hotels.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was just worried — that I want to show up, I want to show up, and I don’t want any accident to happen. I had extra pressure to represent my country, my people, my team,” explained Dvalishvili (16-4). “We’re working so hard, and I want to just represent good.”

The fight against Yan was a personal one, and losing was not an option against a bitter rival who had lashed out at him during weigh-ins. “I said, I don’t care about any other fight, lost against whoever, but a loss against him, I should kill myself or something. Because he’s a great fighter like I said before, but he’s a little bit cocky. I love fighters because they’re all humble, they’re all good people, but I don’t think this guy is a very good guy.”

That having been said, Dvalishvili believes he made his point — and earned Yan’s respect. “He wasn’t respecting me before, but now he will respect me. I have heart, and that’s all. I’m not saying I’m the best, but I want to be the best. I don’t want to just win for myself, I want to give a good example for people. I always talk about, I come from nothing, and now I’m on top. If I did it, everybody can do it too.”

Dvalishvili isn’t quite on top just yet, however. Sitting ahead of him in the bantamweight rankings is Sean O’Malley (and Yan himself, though that should change later this week). And of course there is champ Aljamain Sterling, Merab’s friend and training partner, who he will not fight.

Anybody else is fair game, however. “I’ll fight anybody, whoever. Just, I want to be busy, and I will fight anybody. I want to be busy. Whoever the UFC chooses for me to fight, I will fight. I don’t have no problem,” he said Saturday. “This is good problem to have, two best friends, two teammates. My best friend is champion, I’m one of the top [fighters]. We are clearing the division, that’s a good feeling.”

Cory Sandhagen vs. Chito Vera is one key bantamweight fight coming up, and Dvalishvili sounds game to face the winner. “I would love to fight the winner of that. Actually Aljo was saying he wants to go watch this fight, and I would like to go too. Let’s see, if they want to give me that fight, I will take it.”

Earlier in the week, Dvalishvili got to meet the biggest star mixed martial arts has ever seen, Conor McGregor. A meeting that was a thrill for the Georgian fighter.

“I was so happy to see him, because I always wanted to tell him thank you, for what he did for the sport. He is charismatic, and he’s such a humble— He did tell me that he likes my level changes and shot, said this is beautiful. He likes my work, that is a big compliment from him. He’s a big star, he’s still working hard. After [the] Khabib fight, I give him big respect because he showed heart, he showed toughness. He’s a warrior, and he’s such a nice person, he came and took a picture with me and Aljo, and he was nice to us.”

That, to Dvalishvili, is what fighting is all about — and it’s where he finds Petr Yan to be lacking. “I met so many famous fighters and champions, they’re all humble, good people they are. But Petr, I remember when I saw Petr four years ago, and he was looking down like a bully.”

“He wanted to just fight everybody,” added Dvalishvili, implying Yan carried himself like he was above other fighters.

He’ll be beneath Dvalishvili when the rankings update later this week, however.

Watch the full UFC Las Vegas post-fight press conference with Merab Dvalishvili above.