Merab Dvalishvili Blames Distraction by Meta Boss Mark Zuckerberg for UFC 298 Choke

Merab Dvalishvili won his fight at UFC 298, but admitted he was distracted by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was cageside and coaching him, causing him to miss an opportunity to finish the fight in the second round.

Merab Dvalishvili’s career hit a high note at UFC 298. Yet, it might’ve ended quicker if not for Mark Zuckerberg.

In the post-event presser on Saturday, Dvalishvili was quizzed about his interaction with Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder was right there at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, watching Dvalishvili’s unanimous decision victory over Henry Cejudo.

During the fight, Dvalishvili noticed Zuckerberg. He was stoked that the tech billionaire was so into his fight. But, it might’ve thrown him off his game a bit, preventing him from securing a choke in the second round.

“Mark Zuckerberg, we’re social media buddies,” Dvalishvili shared. “He’s been cheering me on and we’ve been sending each other positive vibes. He texted me a few days ago, saying he’d be at the fights. But he asked me to keep it hush-hush. And I did. I knew he’d be there. As soon as I got there, I saw him and greeted him.”

“Throughout the rounds, he was giving me time updates, ’30 seconds left,’ he was coaching me. He was an extra corner for me tonight. So, we were just chatting. When I had Cejudo in the choke, it was tight. But I got too hyped. I was looking at Zuckerberg and having a blast. Maybe I should’ve stayed focused to finish. But hey, I’m just a fighter, I’m free, that’s what you do. It was a fun, positive conversation.”

Zuckerberg isn’t new to the MMA scene. He’s been seen with UFC CEO Dana White at several events, participated in grappling competitions, and even flirted with the idea of a fight with Elon Musk.

Dvalishvili, one of the top bantamweights in the world, probably didn’t need much advice from Zuckerberg. But, his presence was appreciated nonetheless.

“He was giving me some tips,” Dvalishvili said. “But when I was fighting, it was like good music. Like when you’re running and you hear a great song. I don’t remember exactly now, but at the time, it was nice. He was coaching me.”

When asked if he’d corner Zuckerberg for a fight with Musk, Dvalishvili said, “Absolutely. I’d be in his corner even if he fights my coach.”

Dvalishvili’s UFC 298 win likely makes him the top contender to face the winner of the UFC 299 main event between Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera. Dvalishvili said he’d prefer to fight O’Malley, who beat his close friend Aljamain Sterling to become champion. But, he didn’t seem too worried about who he’d be up against.

Instead, he was more excited about celebrating his fellow Georgian Ilia Topuria‘s featherweight title win. Topuria knocked out Alexander Volkanovski to become Georgia’s first UFC champion. And Dvalishvili is set to become the second by the end of 2024.

“Today’s a historical day for Georgia,” Dvalishvili said. “The whole country was up early, all the restaurants were booked, people were watching in stadiums, everywhere. They’re celebrating in the streets now. As you guys saw, so many Georgians came to the arena, the flag was everywhere. My country is proud. We have our first Georgian UFC champion, it means a lot.”

“My country has always supported me. I want to say thank you so much. I’ll just keep working hard, making them proud. I want to be a good example and motivation for young people. It doesn’t matter where you come from. You could be from a farmer’s family like me. If you work hard, it’ll pay off. Anything is possible.”


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