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Dana White cautions Merab Dvalishvili: ‘Really bad idea’ to avoid fighting friend Aljamain Sterling

UFC Fight Night: Yan vs Dvalishvili
Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Dana White has some career advice for Merab Dvalishvili.

Following Dvalishvili’s impressive win over former bantamweight champion Petr Yan in the main event of UFC Las Vegas, White reacted to Dvalishvili’s vow never to fight his close friend, current bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling. Dvalishvili has now won nine straight fights, the longest active streak in the UFC’s 135-pound division, but he has expressed zero interest in challenging Sterling for the title.

“I don’t remember who the hell I was talking to the other day about this and I was like, ‘We don’t have to deal with that bulls*** anymore,’” White said, speaking to the media at UFC APEX on Saturday night. “Back in the early days, the camps were so small you didn’t have a lot of different options, so we had a lot of these guys saying, ‘Oh, he’s my friend, he’s my friend.’ You can still be friends and want what your friend has.

“It would be a really bad idea for Merab to go down that path.”

In the past, several high-profile contenders have spoken about not wanting to have to fight friends to earn a shot at the title. American Kickboxing Academy was once home to a trio of welterweight contenders in Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Swick, all of whom frequently stated they would not fight one another (Fitch and Koscheck both challenged Georges St-Pierre for the UFC title at different points in their careers).

Jon Jones and Rashad Evans memorably refused to fight one another after training, though their relationship devolved, and the two met in a light heavyweight title bout at UFC 145.

Regardless of how White feels about Dvalishvili’s matchmaking choices, he had nothing but praise for how the bantamweight contender performed in the UFC Las Vegas main event.

“Unbelievable fight,” White said. “Usually Petr Yan sets the pace in those types of fights, tonight Merab set the pace and put on a great performance, especially his first time going into championship rounds like that.”

White isn’t going to push Dvalishvili into a title shot against Sterling if he doesn’t want it — a moot point at the moment anyway with Sterling set to fight the returning Henry Cejudo at UFC 288 on May 6 — but his feelings on Dvalishvili prioritizing friendship over the championship are clear.

“Does Merab want a shot at the title, or would Merab rather have people under him jump over him and him have to take on all these different top guys when he’s not even getting the title shot when he’s next in line for it?” White asked. “That’s a personal decision that he needs to make. If that’s what he wants to do, I can tell you how that story ends. It’s not a good ending to that story. But he’s a big boy, he can figure that out on his own.”

Watch Dana White’s media scrum below, courtesy of MMA Mania.

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