Sean O’Malley can only laugh at Merab Dvalishvili’s UFC 288 gag, even if it was at his expense.
Dvalishvili pulled off a delightful prank this past Saturday following the main event as his close friend and teammate was engaged in a tense post-fight faceoff with O’Malley. Sterling had just successfully defended his bantamweight title with a split decision over Henry Cejudo, and O’Malley was brought in to the octagon to hype up their potential matchup.
O’Malley entered the ring wearing a Michael Jackson-inspired jacket that was removed as he squared up with Sterling. At first glance, nothing seemed notable about that sequence, but Dvalishvili soon popped into frame wearing O’Malley’s jacket with a mischievous smirk on his face.
On The MMA Hour, O’Malley explained why it was so easy for Dvalishvili to get the drop on him and shared his feelings about the prank.
“I thought that dude was my coat guy,” O’Malley said. “I had a coat guy on the night because I knew I was going to take my jacket off, but they didn’t let him in there, so I thought Merab was the coat dude. I had it to Merab, so I can’t even be mad at Merab. I don’t think he’s quite all there, so I don’t want to be a bully, but yeah, he’s a funny character.”
Asked if he was upset at all, O’Malley insisted that he wasn’t bothered at all and even offered to let Dvalishvili have the jacket.
“To be honest, he looked good in that jacket,” O’Malley said. “I might send it to him, he probably needs a nice little fashion.”
If O’Malley seemed distracted, it was understandable given the stakes of the faceoff. Coming off of a win over Petr Yan this past October, O’Malley has been waiting in the wings as the No. 1 contender for Sterling’s bantamweight championship. O’Malley entered the cage determined to make an impression on Sterling, but he also tried to give Cejudo a piece of his mind.
Should Cejudo compete again as opposed to returning to retirement, the 36-year-old former two-division champion already has his sights set on Dvalishvili. It’s a matchup that O’Malley thinks makes sense while he takes care of his business with Sterling.
“I like that idea because I do think me vs. Henry is a big fight, I do think that there’s something there that needs to be settled,” O’Malley said of Cejudo fighting his way back to another title shot. “So yeah, I like that. Do I think Henry beats Merab? I don’t know. That’s an interesting fight. I like it. Do I think Henry’s actually going to come back? I don’t know, it’s hard to say.”
Whether O’Malley gets to fight Cejudo or not, he’s confident that Dvalishvili will be around to face him in the future. However, he’s also interested in settling the score with past opponent Marlon “Chito” Vera should he have a choice for his first title defense.
“Merab’s going to stick around for a long time, I do believe that, so that fight’s going to happen regardless,” O’Malley said. “I go out there and beat the best guy in the division, potentially the bantamweight GOAT in Aljo, give me an easy fight.
“Give me Chito. Hopefully he can go out there and get a win. Obviously, coming off a loss that doesn’t make sense, but I go out there and beat the best dude I’d like if they gave me a little bit easier fight. Give me Chito.”