UFC does not endorse friendships between their stars. This can serve multitude of their purposes including making it difficult to unionize, keeping their lips tight on earnings to make negotiating harder and more.
Merab Dvalishvili’s recent victory over former champion Petr Yan has earned him the #1 ranking in the bantamweight division. However, despite his impressive record and skills, “The Machine” has expressed no interest in facing his teammate and current champion, Aljamain Sterling.
In a recent appearance on the “Believe You Me” podcast, Anthony Smith shared his thoughts on the Dvalishvili-Sterling friendship.
This is particularly interesting because BYM hosts Michael Bisping and Anthony Smith seem to be trying to curry UFC’s favor. Previously the twosome came in support of Power slap, which is universally frowned upon.
Bisping even ended up scoring a lucrative deal to commentate on the event. Smith is currently employed as an analyst in addition to staying active. UFC has a long history of returning the favor with Smith dating back to an infamous illegal knee Jon Jones threw at Smith. Smith opted to continue and lose instead of capturing the title via DQ. The promotion seemed to favor Smith ever since and hasn’t undermined Smith despite a so-so MMA record. Smith’s record consists of 36 wins and 17 losses.
Smith stated that he doesn’t believe Sterling reciprocates the same level of respect towards Dvalishvili as the latter does towards Sterling. Smith also noted that he hasn’t seen their friendship go both ways, but rather only seen Dvalishvili ride hard for his best friend.
While Dvalishvili and Sterling represent the same team, UFC president Dana White advised Dvalishvili to look after his own interests and not avoid Sterling.
Many UFC matchups have occurred between former teammates, such as T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt and Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal, among others.
Despite their close relationship, a matchup between Dvalishvili and Sterling could still happen in the future.
Sterling is reportedly expected to face Henry Cejudo at UFC 288 on May 8. Since winning the bantamweight title in March 2021, Sterling has successfully defended the strap twice, against Yan and T.J. Dillashaw.
He talked a little bit about moving up but that would involve vacating the title and the PPV points most likely so it’s not exactly favorable.
Dvalishvili is currently on a nine win streak, with wins over notable stars such as Yan, José Aldo, Marlon Moraes, Cody Stamann, and John Dodson.
Since 2014, Benny A. King has been fully immersed in the world of combat sports. Starting with a blog about Greco Roman wrestling, Benny’s passion for combat sports has led him to explore various disciplines.