Sean O’Malley concedes to fan pushback, declares Merab Dvalishvili next after UFC 299

Sean O’Malley has heard the voice of the people, and that voice says ‘Merab Dvalishvili.’

This past Saturday, Dvalishvili extended his current win streak to 10 in a row with a dominant unanimous decision win over Henry Cejudo at UFC 298 in Anaheim, Calif. Following his win, Dvalishvili called out O’Malley, who was sitting cageside for the event, but the UFC bantamweight champion did not jump at the idea, with O’Malley later saying that after he beats Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC 299, he wants a fight against newly crowned featherweight champion Ilia Topuria.

But now, O’Malley is changing course after receiving overwhelming feedback from fans.

“Let me start with this: initially I was calling for Ilia,” O’Malley said in a video posted to his YouTube Channel. “I wanted the Ilia fight. I wanted that fight. It excites me, but I also thought the fans would get excited about it. But I got a lot of pushback saying, ‘You’re ducking Merab! Merab is next!’ So Merab’s next. Let’s do Merab.”

There is already quite a bit of backstory to a potential O’Malley-Dvalishvili fight.

O’Malley claimed the 135-pound title by finishing Dvalishvili’s friend and training partner Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292. But prior to that event, the two nearly got into it when Dvalishvili stole O’Malley’s jacket during a faceoff between O’Malley and Sterling.

O’Malley ended up getting the last laugh when he won the belt by knocking out Sterling and he is confident the same thing will happen to Dvalishvili.

“I’m telling you guys, I knock Merab out,” O’Malley said. “I rewatched Henry vs. Aljo after I was there and I told you guys, I’m knocking Aljo out. All you guys said, ‘No way. You’re not knocking Aljo out! He’s going to take you down and kill you!’ Here we go again. Obviously, I’ve got to get through Chito, but I’m telling you guys, 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, little TKO. Merab, I’m putting to sleep. Turning his nose straight.”

Just because he’s changing course, O’Malley isn’t giving up on the Topuria fight entirely. That fight is simply getting pushed back as Dvalishvili has earned his opportunity, not just through his fights, but through his actions.

“The Ilia fight can happen some day,” O’Malley said. “He keeps doing his thing, I keep doing my thing, that’s a big fight some day. I just want to fight for the people. I want to make the biggest fights possible. And I’ll give credit to Merab, Merab’s f****** 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’s fight’s next.

“Merab, I hope you’re at weigh-ins as the backup fighter in case Chito doesn’t show, like he didn’t show up to Anaheim because he’s scared. I’m taking Chito out, I’m taking Merab out, if Ilia’s still champ, I’ll take him out too.”

O’Malley defends his bantamweight title against Vera on March 9 at the Kaseya Center in Miami.

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