Merab Dvalishvili just had the biggest victory of his career at UFC 278.
Dvalishvili failed to outwrestle yet still defeated former champion Jose Aldo. But Dvalishvili failed to deliver following the bout. Not only was he very discrete about the contents of his octagon talk with Aldo but he also stressed that he’s not interested in competing for the title against ‘brother’ Aljamain Sterling – which is Dana White’s personal peeve.
Dvalishvili definitely isn’t making friends in the UFC – just a day after the victory he went on MMA Hour and dished out some heavy criticism toward the promotion.
Dvalishvili was angry that he couldn’t display the flag of his native Georgia.
Until the UFC decided to outlaw flags in late April, competitors were free to represent their nations during their ring walks.
Dvalishvili expressed his disappointment
“Why can’t we bring our flags to the octagon? I started this sport because I wanted to represent my country internationally.”
“I made it, but I can’t bring my flag? I want to show people that I’m from a small country and make Georgians proud. Why can’t I represent my country? Nobody answered [why]. This is a very big deal for me”
“We want to represent our country. I came to the US with nothing, my coaches and team helped me become who I am. Now I represent both countries, both flags I’m proud of. I love the US and I love Georgia. At the least, can I represent my countries flag?”
After his battle last month, Chinese fighter Li Jingliang snatched his country’s flag from the audience and brought it into the octagon. However, it was quickly confiscated by a vigilant UFC staffer.
While the UFC has never explicitly said that the flag ban is a result of Russian invasion on Ukraine, Dana White smugly countered a reporter’s question ‘Why do you think’ inferring that that was the case.
Even prior to Russia-Ukraine crisis there were flag issues. Javid Basharat hails out of Afhanistan – he ended up walking out to the national anthem after the Taliban took over the country and changed the flag.
Ramona Pascual was prohibited from entering the octagon with the Hong Kong flag for her appearance on UFC Vegas 49. She was given the opportunity to enter the cage with the Chinese flag instead.
Before UFC 271, the Zimbabwean competitor “Blood Diamond” was denied the octagon the chance to carry the Zimbabwe flag.
The continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine is one reason for the flag ban. Dvalishvili believes the UFC should learn from neighboring MMA organization PFL, who have exclusively barred Russian competitors from representing their nation.
Dvalishvili beleives that the UFC should’ve just banned the Russian flag:
“This is crazy because I think PFL do it right, they don’t allow Russians to bring the flag and everybody else can bring their flags. They should ban Russians because they are the ones who started”
While Dvalishvili thinks he’s suffering the circumstances of the geopolitical situation in Europe it’s much more likely that UFC’s Hollywood ownership tried to minimize the chance for politics to cut into their profit margins. Beyond the aforementioned nations, the flag ban allows for UFC to get out a number of complicated political situations including those that engulf Palestine and Hong Kong.
Journalist Ariel Helwani seconded Dvalishvili’s sentiments adding:
“I can’t believe they aren’t allowed to bring flags to the cage anymore. This blows my mind. Sponsor flags? Alright. But your home country?! Makes no sense and I know of several who have really been bothered by this, including Merab”