Merab Dvalishvili & Aljamain Sterling Confirm 3-Round Fight Prior to UFC 298 Bout with Henry Cejudo

Georgian bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili engaged in a three-round fight with his best friend and former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling as a warm-up before his fight with Henry Cejudo at UFC 298, a strategy that he believes contributed to his victory.

Merab Dvalishvili had more than just a three-round fight this past Saturday. His nickname, “The Machine,” is no joke. The Georgian bantamweight is known for his intense conditioning.

But this time, he took it a step further. Before his bout with Henry Cejudo at UFC 298, he didn’t just warm up backstage. Nope, he had a full-blown three-round fight with his best bud and ex-UFC bantamweight champ, Aljamain Sterling. Sterling was there as a coach and cornerman.

This crazy sparring session was first spilled by Dvalishvili’s longtime coach, Ray Longo. He talked about it during the Anik & Florian podcast on Monday. “He literally fought Aljo, three rounds, f****** brutal,” Longo said. “Little gloves on, swinging for the f****** fences. Like Aljo complains about my boxing class sometimes. That’s way worse what I just saw!

“Dude, they went it at it three [five-minute rounds]. So that’s his second fight of the night. That’s a fact. That’s not even made up. You can check with John Wood, you can check with Aljo.”

Dvalishvili confirmed it all during an appearance on The MMA Hour. He said that fighting Sterling backstage got him ready for war against Cejudo just minutes later. Sounds wild, right? Especially considering the risk of some freak injury. But that’s just how Dvalishvili likes to warm up. He wants to feel really prepared for a fight.

“Yeah [that’s true],” Dvalishvili said about his coach’s story. “That’s how we warm up. I like to warm up good. But yeah, we are best friends and training partners. We beat each other [up] and make each other better. Then we are ready for anybody else.”

Longo assures there were no punches pulled. They weren’t just going through the motions to break a sweat. He claims it was essentially the fight that Dvalishvili and Sterling would never do in the UFC due to their friendship. But backstage without cameras around, all bets were off.

“Full blown f****** fight,” Longo said. “I go ‘Aljo, your cardio looks pretty good, we’re in good shape for your fight that’s in like two months [at UFC 300.’ I mean crazy, the guy’s nuts. No drilling, just complete chaos in that f***** warm up room.”

Sterling also shared his experience working with Dvalishvili before the fight. He promises it’s just part of their normal routine to get the Georgian ready. “I spar with Merab for three rounds, three hard rounds,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “More of me in a squatted position so my height can drop, getting the absolutely dog s*** kicked out of my calf and he punched me in my eyeball one time, punched me in the back of my head. He did something to my kneecap.

“I was in a fight. I felt afterwards I was in a fight!”

The pre-fight fight paid off. Dvalishvili dominated Cejudo after a closely contested opening round, leading to a unanimous decision victory. Dvalishvili even says, “I think sparring with Aljo” was a tougher fight than what Cejudo presented in their No. 1 contender’s bout.

Whatever happened in that sparring session, it worked. Dvalishvili bagged his 10th consecutive win, hoping for a title shot next.


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