Sean O’Malley has had his fill of Merab Dvalishvili.
O’Malley and Dvalishvili inadvertently became MMA’s latest odd couple when their amusing in-cage exchange went viral at UFC 288. Following Aljamain Sterling’s bantamweight title defense over Henry Cejudo, O’Malley entered the octagon for a faceoff with Sterling as the UFC’s next title challenger. That’s when Sterling’s longtime friend and teammate Dvalishvili covertly stole O’Malley’s Michael Jackson inspired red jacket, then climbed atop the octagon to celebrate the moment with fans in New Jersey’s Prudential Center.
Dvalishvili has been seen with a red jacket in numerous interviews since, and O’Malley can’t help but marvel at how much the Georgian contender has milked the gimmick.
“That sucks though — Merab’s beat good guys, he’s had a good career, and no one gives a f***,” O’Malley said Monday on his podcast The Timbo Sugar Show. “The most exciting thing to ever happen to him was me giving him my jacket to hold, and it’s like he’s running [with it]. He bought a replica, he’s wearing it. He’s trying to do as many interviews as he can. He’s like, ‘Holy f***, this is what it feels like to have anyone give a f*** about me.’
“It’s like, dude, that was three weeks ago, bud. Take it off. It’s not even the real one. It’s the f***ing fake one that you bought, bud.”
Dvalishvili has ridden a nine-fight UFC win streak to the brink of title contention, capped off by a dominant victory over Petr Yan this past March. However, Dvalishvili has repeatedly stated his disinterest in challenging for Sterling’s belt because of his close relationship with the champ, which has opened the door for other contenders like Cejudo and O’Malley to step into the title picture, the latter of whom challenges Sterling on Aug. 19 at UFC 292.
Dvalishvili’s manager Oren Hodak told MMA Fighting on Tuesday that Dvalishvili is expected to be sidelined for three to four months after undergoing surgery to repair damage in his hand. That news changed some initial plans for the bantamweight division’s step, as Cejudo was originally angling to fight Dvalishvili on the same card as Sterling vs. O’Malley at UFC 292 in Boston. Cejudo has since pivoted to calling for an opportunity to face O’Malley in an interim title bout at UFC 292 if Sterling’s lingering injuries prevent him from fighting.
Despite a contentious back-and-forth with Dana White, Sterling has maintained that he plans to fight O’Malley at UFC 292 regardless.
Either way, O’Malley isn’t buying what Cejudo is selling.
“Henry’s like an annoying little girlfriend that ‘Aljo’ broke up with,” O’Malley said. “He’s like, ‘No, I want you back.’ ... I’m over it.”