Merab Dvalishvili slams Sean O’Malley claiming Henry Cejudo is broke and only fighting for money: ‘This is bulls***’

In a few days, Merab Dvalishvili will do everything possible to beat Henry Cejudo at UFC 298 but for now, he’s actually got his opponent’s back.

That’s largely thanks to comments made by reigning UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley when offering his prediction on their fight. Just recently, O’Malley told Demetrious Johnson on his podcast that he was picking Dvalishvili to win mostly because Cejudo was “broke” and “doesn’t have any money” so he needs the paycheck.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a prize fighter seeking a prize but Dvalishvili slammed O’Malley for making that suggestion, especially given Cejudo’s long list of accolades that includes an Olympic gold medal in wrestling and claiming titles in two different divisions in the UFC.

“I just saw O’Malley tweet something or say something ‘Henry is fighting for money.’ This is bulls***,” Dvalishvili told MMA Fighting. “We are fighting for legacy. Henry Cejudo is fine. He’s a multi-time champion, he’s a two-division UFC champion. He’s doing all right. I don’t think he’s fighting for money. He’s fighting for legacy and he’s a champion. He only loves gold and that’s all he wants.

“I’m expecting a very strong Henry Cejudo. I’m ready physically, mentally and I’m going to show the world again, once again.”

Now Dvalishvili will agree on something that Cejudo said leading up to their fight.

After falling to former champion Aljamain Sterling in his return from retirement, Cejudo didn’t mince words about the importance of getting a win over Dvalishvili in a potential No. 1 contender’s bout. At 37, Cejudo has to know his time left in the sport is limited, which is at least partially why he acknowledged that the fight at UFC 298 is “all or nothing” where his career is concerned.

A win gets him a title shot but a loss will likely force him to call it a career again.

“Think about this, if I beat Henry Cejudo, he’s not going to go back and keep fighting down through the ladder,” Dvalishvili said. “If he loses, he needs like three more wins to have a title conversation. If he beats me, he will fight for the title. It’s a big moment for him. Of course, he will do everything to beat me.”

Now Cejudo even mentioning retirement could be seen as a weakness ahead of the fight but Dvalishvili doesn’t see it that way at all.

Instead, he points to his past matchup against Jose Aldo when the Brazilian was coming off three straight wins with another shot at gold dead in his sights with a victory. That didn’t happen because Dvalishvili beat him and afterwards Aldo announced his retirement.

The time and effort to climb back to title contention at that stage of his career probably looked like an incredibly daunting task. Cejudo faces that same harsh reality if he loses at UFC 298.

The fact that he’s acknowledging that ahead of time proves to Dvalishvili that this isn’t just about Cejudo getting paid.

“When I beat Jose Aldo, he said he’s out,” Dvalishvili said. “He’s not going to go back and keep cutting weight and win again. He was coming from a three fight win streak and he wants to win another title. When I beat him, he lost the chance at another title and he don’t want to do it again, keep fighting all the contenders. Same thing with Henry.

“If I beat him, I will fight for the title and Henry will wait and if I become champion, Henry has to keep fighting other guys. That means that he’s not fighting for money. He’s fighting for legacy. He wants only gold. He can’t fight forever. He did very good against Aljo, it was a split decision. It was a close fight. Aljo beat him but Henry Cejudo, he’s still got it. He’s not fighting for money. He’s fighting for legacy. He wants just gold.”

Because the stakes are raised and Cejudo has painted this as a do-or-die fight for him, Dvalishvili expects he’s about to face the toughest challenge possible.

He knows Cejudo will leave no stone unturned, which is why he’s doing the exact same thing to leave nothing to chance once the set foot in the octagon on Saturday night.

“[It’s] a good mindset to win, it’s everything or nothing,” Dvalishvili said. “It’s the best mindset. Honestly, it’s nothing surprising. I’m sure he can do many other things. He has so many opportunities in life but he’s not going to chase the belt again because it’s going to take so long, especially with injuries and how hard we are training and he has a family now.

“I’m sure preparation is good and he put everything into this training camp. He’s going to do everything to beat me but I’m going to make sure I’m the winner on Feb. 17.”

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