Cejudo targeting Sterling’s teammate as backup fight for UFC 288

Merab Dvalishvili after UFC Las Vegas in March.
Merab Dvalishvili after UFC Las Vegas in March. | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The former two-division champion says Dvalishvili would be the best backup if Aljamain Sterling withdraws from their upcoming fight. 

Former UFC champion Henry Cejudo has changed his mind on who he would prefer as a backup for his upcoming fight against Aljamain Sterling.

Though he originally preferred Sean O’Malley — the current No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division — Cejudo recently saw someone else who could fill in should something happen to Sterling: Merab Dvalishvili. In his first UFC headliner, the ‘Machine’ shined, dominating Petr Yan en route to a unanimous decision at UFC Las Vegas this past Saturday.

From what he saw, Cejudo said UFC president Dana White should consider having Dvalishvili on standby.

“Dear Dana White, I’m over here watching the No. 2 and No. 3 contenders and I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a feeling that [Aljamain] is more likely to kind of back out of this fight,” said Cejudo in a video uploaded to Twitter. “So that being said, why don’t you give me Merab? Since Sean O’Malley wants to wait. He wants to take his time.

“Why don’t we make Merab the backup at UFC 288? Why don’t we do it that way,” continued Cejudo. “That way it’s both of these training partners because I have a feeling that Aljamain is eventually going to back out. But I want to make sure.”

Cejudo has previously said that he could ‘adjust’ to any opponent if the ‘Funk Master’ was to withdraw from their fight. That said, ’Triple C’ feels as though Sterling and Dvalishvili — friends and training partners at Serra-Longo Fight Team — would give him the same type of fight, so no adjustments are needed.

“It’s going to be the same game plan for both of these chumps,” said Cejudo. “Wrestle, strike, every time they throw something heavy, they go in there for takedowns. Anyway, Dana White, if you’re listening to me, let’s have Merab as a backup, Newark, New Jersey, UFC 288 because I want both of them. If I could fight both of them in the same night, they can both get it.”

Of course, Sterling and Dvalishvili have downplayed a potential fight, so the latter would avoid getting himself into a situation where he could share the Octagon with the former. The Georgian has said that he would continue fighting other contenders until Sterling decides to leave bantamweight for featherweight.

Sterling vs. Cejudo headlines UFC 288, the upcoming pay-per-view event scheduled for May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)

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