Aljamain Sterling retained his belt with a split decision win over Henry Cejudo. The next contender is clear after what transpired in the cage at UFC 288.
Dana White claims that Sean O’Malley is next in line for the bantamweight belt.
However, during the post-fight presser, the UFC president named one other fighter that would immediately be given the title shot over O’Malley.
According to MMA Junkie, White is asked about Sterling’s teammate, Merab Dvalishvili, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the bantamweight division.
Dana White goes on to say that Dvalishvili “could have that fight tomorrow” when referring to a title shot against Aljamain Sterling.
However, Merab Dvalishvili refuses to fight his own teammate. Here’s Dana White’s full statement about the bantamweight division.
So, it appears White would rather have Dvalishvili take on Sterling instead of O’Malley.
But there are plenty of fighters who train at the same gym who refuse to fight their teammates. This is nothing new. However, it does make the top of the rankings for the bantamweight division a bit confusing.
Either way, Sean O’Malley draws a crowd and Dana White should be more than happy with him taking on Aljamain Sterling.
The UFC President also mentions he’d like that fight to take place in August 2023. If that’s the case, fight cards late in the summer are going to be incredibly stacked.
So, it’s clear what’s in store for Sterling and the belt. However, the top-ranked contender within the division doesn’t have a clear future.
Fight fans would love to see Dvalishvili back in the cage. But the only fight that makes sense for him is a title shot.
With that said, keep an eye on the bantamweight division right now, as things could get interesting in the coming months.