Henry Cejudo has his sights set on beating Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288 but if the reigning bantamweight champion can’t make it, he’ll gladly take on his teammate instead.
That’s the word from the Olympic gold medalist wrestler after he watched Merab Dvalishvili dominate Petr Yan over five rounds to win a lopsided unanimous decision in the UFC Las Vegas main event. Because it’s customary now to have a backup fighter for every major main event, Cejudo hopes that Dvalishvili gets the call just in case his best friend is unable to compete.
“Dear Dana White, I’m over here watching the No. 2 and 3 contenders and I’ve got a feeling that [Aljamain] is more likely to back out of this fight,” Cejudo said on Twitter. “So that being said, why don’t you give me Merab? Give me Merab since Sean O’Malley wants to wait. He wants to take his time.
“Why we don’t make Merab the backup at UFC 288. Why don’t we do it that way? That way it’s both of these training partners because I have a feeling Aljamain is going to eventually back out so I want to make sure.”
Dear @danawhite I want @MerabDvalishvil as a back up. Let me show you what I can do. #andnew pic.twitter.com/PJPjRXfOee— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) March 12, 2023
While Sean O’Malley has already been declared as the next No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division, Dvalishvili would almost certainly challenge his claim after putting on a flawless performance to beat Yan on Saturday.
Despite his status in the division, Dvalishvili has made it clear that he won’t fight for the title so long as Sterling remains champion. Instead, Dvalishvili has said he’ll continue to knock off every contender that the UFC throws at him until Sterling finally makes the move up to 145 pounds.
While that may be the plan for Dvalishvili and Sterling, it appears Cejudo is anxious to get the chance to fight both of them now that he’s returned from retirement and resuming his fighting career.
In fact, Cejudo seems to think he’d ultimately be facing the same type of fight from either of them, which is why he likes the idea of Dvalishvili backing up Sterling at UFC 288.
“It’s going to be the same game plan from both of these chumps,” Cejudo said. “Wrestle, strike, every time they throw something heavy, they go in for takedowns.
“Anyway Dana White, if you’re listening to me, let’s have Merab as a backup Newark, N.J., UFC 288 because I want both of them. If I can fight both of them the same night, they can both get it.”
As it stands, the UFC hasn’t made any announcement yet regarding a backup fighter for the upcoming card in New Jersey, although it seems unlikely Dvalishvili would volunteer considering Cejudo could just as easily get pulled from the card and he has absolutely no interest in facing Sterling under any circumstances.