UFC champ Sean O’Malley changes tune, welcomes Merab Dvalishvili fight after fans push back

UFC bantamweight champion Sean O'Malley has experienced a change of heart.

O’Malley, who first meets Marlon Vera on March 9 at UFC 299, said this week that he would seek a champ-vs.-champ showdown with newly crowned featherweight titleholder Ilia Topuria over defending his belt against Merab Dvalishvili (assuming he gets by “Chito”). But after receiving criticism from fans on social media, it appears he’s taken those messages into consideration.

“Let me start with this: Initially I was calling for Ilia. I wanted the Ilia fight. It excites me, but I also thought the fans would get excited about it. I got a lot of pushback saying, ‘You’re ducking Merab, Merab is next,’ so Merab is next,” O’Malley said Thursday on his YouTube channel. “Let’s do Merab. I’m telling you guys: I knock Merab out.”

Dvalishvili staked his claim to a title shot – which UFC CEO Dana White supports – by winning a unanimous decision over former dual champ Henry Cejudo last Saturday at UFC 298. It was the 10th victory in a row for Dvalishvili (17-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC), who hasn’t been beaten since April 2018.

O’Malley was in attendance at Honda Center for Dvalishvili’s win over Cejudo, just like he was for Aljamain Sterling’s title defense against Cejudo, and thins feel the same all over again.

“I rewatched Henry vs. Aljo after I was there, and I told you I’m knocking Aljo out. All you guys said, ‘No way, you’re not knocking Aljo out, he’s gonna take you down and kill you.’ Here we go again,” O’Malley said.

“When I fight Merab, I’m knocking that dude out. He’s sloppy. I’m accurate. I’m too fast. I’m too sharp. I’m telling you boys: I put Merab’s lights out worse than Aljo. Aljo was a TKO. Merab, I’m putting him to sleep, turning his nose straight.”

As for a showdown with Topuria, who claimed the featherweight belt with a second-round knockout of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298, O’Malley is now OK shelving that for the time being. He considers himself a man of the people.

“The Ilia fight can happen someday,” O’Malley said. “Ilia keeps doing his thing, I keep doing my thing, that’s a big fight someday. I just want to fight for the people, I want to make the biggest fights possible, and I’ll give credit to Merab. Merab has improved not just fighting but on social. He’s doing a really good job building himself up, being himself, being a goofy ugly ass, and he’s doing a good job. So that fight’s next.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie