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Merab Dvalishvili willing to fight up two weight classes once UFC fights resume, but eyes Sean O’Malley

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Global pandemic or not, Merab Dvalishvili wants to fight as soon as possible.

After earning a unanimous decision win over Casey Kenney at UFC Rio Rancho, “The Machine” has won his last three fights in a loaded bantamweight division. Dvalishvili broke the UFC record for most takedowns in a 135-pound fight when he landed 12 successfully against Kenney in February.

“I’m happy (with the performance),” Dvalishvili told MMA Fighting on What the Heck. “I’m happy to get another record and I can’t wait for my next fight. I’m happy that I made my team, my country and my friends proud. I can not ask for more.”

Although Dvalishvili didn’t earn a spot in the bantamweight rankings, the 29-year-old Georgian fighter believes his recent win, along with decision wins over Terrion Ware and Brad Katona, should set him up for a fight with a ranked opponent.

The one issue: Dvalishvili isn’t optimistic top-15 bantamweights will be in any rush to sign the dotted line.

“I think that not everybody will take a fight with me, that they’ll be more careful,” Dvalishvili explained. “I think that a lot of guys in my weight class, they’re not going to be happy to fight me, but I’m ready for everyone. I have big respect for the top-15 guys, but that’s what I want. I only want top-15 guys now. I want to move forward and keep fighting.”

As the UFC, along with the rest of the world, is trying to map out how to move forward during the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of fighters on the roster have raised their hands to compete whenever the action can resume. On Thursday, Dana White announced the indefinite postponement of all UFC events after making every effort possible to go ahead with UFC 249 on April 18, as well as the rest of the events on the schedule.

Following the postponements, White vowed to be the first major professional sports organization to resume operations, and plans to do so on — what is currently being billed as — Fight Island.

Among the fighters volunteering their services is Dvalishvili, who is literally willing to go above and beyond to earn a spot.

“That’s all I do. This is my job,” Dvalishvili explained. “I love fighting and I look at it this way: if I don’t train well (during the pandemic), my opponent should be the same thing. So let’s fight. We can fight catchweight. I can make 135, 145, even 155. I don’t care, I just want to fight.

“I’m so happy to be a part of the UFC and that these fights will continue because all of the sports in the world have stopped. No one’s doing anything, we keep moving forward. Hopefully, the next UFC (event), I’ll be able to jump in. If someone wants a fight with me, please, mention my name, I want to fight.

“If I fight for the UFC, like Dana White said, it’ll be the most safe. The fighters, the referees, we will be safe. I just want to fight. Everybody has to go to the grocery store, shop and by food; it’s the same. I’ll drive wherever it is and bring one friend with me.”

While there have been many on the UFC roster and within the promotion who have advocated for events to move forward in the middle of a global crisis, there has been a long list of people who are against it. One of which is Dvalishvili’s head coach Ray Longo.

In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Longo urged the UFC to postpone their schedule for a little longer until we get through the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dvalishvili told MMA Fighting on Tuesday that he hadn’t spoken with Longo about his intentions to fight on one of the upcoming cards, but knows Longo, along with Matt Serra, will give their stamp of approval.

“I haven’t spoken to him about this,” Dvalishvili said. “It doesn’t matter, my coaches Ray Longo and Matt Serra, they are always with me. Whatever i say, they say ‘yes, Merab, let’s go!’ I know they will be always with me and I know they can’t come. Ray Longo and Matt Serra’s support means a lot to me.

“Even if they can’t come with me, I’m still ready. I still want to fight.”

Regardless of opponent or weight class, Dvalishvili will answer the call should he receive it. If he had the choice on who he would like to share the Octagon with, his sights are set on one of the bantamweight division’s rising stars.

“I would love to fight Sean O’Malley,” Dvalishvili stated. “I know he is looking forward to a fight with a big name, but please, if somebody can make this fight, please make this fight. I would love to fight him.

“Big respect (to Sean), but that’s what I want.”