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Aljamain Sterling says he’ll ‘probably have to move up’ a division with Merab Dvalishvili’s next win

UFC 266: Volkanovski v Ortega
Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili, far left and second from left
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling wants to give Merab Dvalishvili a shot at the belt.

Asked on Twitter about a potential matchup with his longtime teammate, Sterling indicated he would rather move up in weight than force a fight.

“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,” Sterling wrote. “We will figure it out.”

Sterling and Dvalishvili, respectively No. 1 and No. 7 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings at 135 pounds, are unbooked for their next octagon outings. Bantamweight champ Sterling may face ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, though he has also signaled an openness to face other contenders such as ex-featherweight champ Jose Aldo. He is currently resting after defending the belt in a title rematch against Petr Yan at UFC 273.

Sterling, 32, has fought as high as 140 pounds in the octagon for a catchweight bout with ex-champ Renan Barao, but has only fought at featherweight on the regional circuit before his UFC career.

After a pair of stumbles in his first two outings, Dvalishvili has torn through the competition at 135 pounds, winning seven straight including a stoppage of one-time title challenger Marlon Moraes in his most recent outing.

Sterling and Dvalishvili are close training partners and friends at Serra-Longo Fight Team.

Sterling recently drew headlines for his rebuttal of Michael Chandler’s recent comments about fighter pay.