LAS VEGAS – Merab Dvalishvili has title aspirations, but if Aljamain Sterling is still champion when he gets there, he’ll put those dreams aside.

Dvalishvili (13-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is one of UFC bantamweight champion Sterling’s main training partners, so the thought of fighting his good friend is out of the question.

“Me and Aljo, we’re never going to fight each other,” Dvalishvili told MMA Junkie at a UFC 266 pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “We are good friends and we’re not going to fight each other. Aljo is champion. I believe he will defend his belt and he will be a champion for a long time. I have to win a couple more fights to fight for the title, but we will figure something out (if I get there). But one thing is for sure: We’re never going to fight. Me and Aljo, we’re never going to fight each other.”

Currently riding a six-fight winning streak, Dvalishvili will look to continue his ascent up the bantamweight ladder when he meets former title challenger Marlon Moraes (23-8-1 MMA, 5-4 UFC) in the UFC 266 featured prelim Saturday. If “The Machine” can get past Moraes, he knows big things will be on the horizon.

“I think top five at least, or somebody with a big name,” Dvalishvili said. “But I know my next opponent will be somebody with a big name because in the UFC’s top 15, everybody is a big name and everybody is so good. I even watch upcoming guys and it makes me excited, and ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to train because they look dangerous, so I’ve got to work harder.’ Whoever it’ll be, I’m just ready.”

UFC 266 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN News/ESPN+.

To see the full interview with Dvalishvili, check out the video above.





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