Belal Muhammad believes Dana White is right about Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili needing to prioritize a title shot.
On August 19, Sean O’Malley secured a second-round TKO finish against Sterling to become the UFC bantamweight champion. As a result, there is now a complicated situation in the 135-pound division.
For those that don’t know, Dvalishvili, the number two-ranked bantamweight contender, and Sterling, the former champion looking for an immediate rematch, are close friends and training partners.
Therefore, they aren’t willing to fight or advocate against each other for the next title shot against O’Malley. Dana White has voiced his frustration with the situation, as he believes their friendship shouldn’t be prioritized over the life-changing UFC title.
During a recent podcast with Jason Anik, Belal Muhammad had this to say about the bantamweight title shot situation:
“It’s tough, right? Especially because for Merab, you’re in a tough spot because you were expecting Aljo to win this fight, go up, and then you’re next in line to fight for the belt. Now I don’t think Aljo is going up. I think Aljo is staying at 135…Yeah, he’s your boy, but, you know, winning the title is life-changing. I’m not saying you have to fight each other, but I’m saying like, alright, he lost the belt. Now you need to be calling for that title shot against Sean O’Malley.”
Belal Muhammad continued:
“You should be the next guy in line. There’s a storyline there, especially with the whole jacket thing…I understand where Dana is coming from because people wanna see that fight [between Dvalishvili and O’Malley].”
Belal Muhammad believes Merab Dvalishvili is giving the UFC a reason not to give him a title shot
Merab Dvalishvili could be putting himself in a tough position. Despite winning nine consecutive fights, the Georgia-born fighter might need to win another risky matchup due to Aljamain Sterling and Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera potentially being next in line for a title shot.
During the same podcast episode, Belal Muhammad warned Dvalishvili of what could happen if he doesn’t strongly advocate for a title fight:
“You’re giving the UFC a reason to pass you up. Now that Dana White is talking about it like that, now he can say, Neither of these guys wanted it so now we’re giving it to Chito because Chito wants it. Chito is calling for it and asking for it. I think you never wanna give them a reason to pass you up.”
Anything could happen moving forward in the shark-infested bantamweight division. Aljamain Sterling might secure an immediate rematch because of his impressive title reign. With that said, Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera has a win against Sean O’Malley that the latter wants to avenge.
Meanwhile, Merab Dvalishvili is undoubtedly an option for O’Malley to fight next. Therefore, it’ll be intriguing to see how Dana White and the UFC brass decide to matchmake their elite 135-pound fighters.