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Chito Vera expects Dana White to ‘punish’ Aljamain Sterling, Merab Dvalishvili for not fighting each other

Chito Vera sympathizes with Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili’s plight in the UFC bantamweight division. But he ultimately believes the promotion will make them pay for not fighting each other.

“It’s sad, man, because I get the friendship,” Vera said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “But they should know better in this business. Merab is kind of f***** – both guys are f*****.”

If UFC President Dana White’s words are any indication, Vera’s prediction is spot on. White recently vented at Dvalishvili’s long-held position not to fight his friend and longtime teammate, now-former champ Sterling, telling reporters “you should be somewhere else. There’s plenty of places to fight where they don’t give a s*** what you do. Doesn’t work here.”

Sterling and Dvalishvili’s position wound up benefitting Vera in a big way when Sterling lost the belt at UFC 292 to Sean O’Malley. Immediately after his win, O’Malley called to rematch Vera, who handed him his first defeat in 2020.

Although the UFC has yet to book the fight, Vera believes he’ll be fighting for the title sooner than later. As for where that leaves his bantamweight colleagues, he said they might want to think about switching weight divisions.

“[Sterling] should go to 145, [Dvalishvili] should go to 125 and f*** off, because they hold up the division from me,” Vera continued. “And now it’s weird, because Aljo was like, ‘I’m going to go to 145 and beat [Alexander] Volkanovski,’ blah blah blah, and he got beat in a fairly easy fight.

“Now he’s all upset, I’m guessing, [saying] ‘I want the rematch,’ but now his homie that was supposed to fight for the belt is like, ‘Now you’ve got to wait, because I really want to do this.’ It’s just a f****** s*** show, and Dana is not going to let that one go.

“They’re going to get punished; they’re going to get put in the freezer for a while, I’m assuming.”

What Vera means, of course, is that the UFC will keep Sterling and Dvalishvili on the sidelines as long as contractually allowed while the bantamweight division rolls on. Others who’ve picked fights with the promotion have sat out for extended periods, only to receive less-than-ideal matchups upon their return.

“You don’t make the division wait,” Vera continued. “I mean, I could wait. I could decline this fight, sit down and wait, and there would be no argument fighting for the belt. But why wait when you can go in there and put on a show, get more reps. I mean, it’s business. I get the business side. I want to be a world champion, but I want to be a good champ. I don’t want to be champ for a day.”

Aside from the teammate issue, Vera faulted Sterling’s approach to his defense against O’Malley. Sterling was a heavy favorite as a superior grappler, but he said he chose to stand and strike with the knockout artist to give the fans a show.

“He was fighting too much with the crowd,” Vera said of the ex-champ. “He was trying to tell the crowd, ‘Oh, I’m going to show you this, oh, you guys will see.’ F*** the crowd. You don’t have to prove [anything] to them.

“I think he wastes a lot of energy on the crowd, in the people, in what people say, and eventually, when you get to the actual fight, you put so much energy into letting people know. F*** people, f*** what people say.

“Just focus on yourself, kick some ass and be like, ‘I told you so.’ But instead of going back and forth with his opponent, he was going back and forth with the crowd. And mentally, that doesn’t help you, reading from the comments, that’s not going to help you, and I felt like he really paid attention to that. He kind of reminded me of Tyron Woodley when Tyron was champion. Instead of enjoying the moment and being so happy and so, ‘I’m the man,’ he was too focused on what people say or on the public opinion, and that’s unhealthy, man.”

Vera has learned from his own setbacks that moving forward and reinvesting in his craft is the best way forward. But it also helps when you’re not at war with the people who offer you work.

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