Merab Dvalishvili is Aljamain Sterling’s best friend.
On the night of March 12 at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas, Petr Yan will face Merab Dvalishvili in the main event .
What you need to know about Jan’s rival?
Stuffed a tattoo with Georgia and does not like Stalin: “He was a dictator”
Merab Dvalishvili was born in Georgia. Poverty and crime around – against this background, Dvalishvili constantly fought and through the streets of Tbilisi came to a passion for fighting. He trained in judo, wrestling and sambo – and left for the USA to build a career in MMA.
Dvalishvili has been living in the US for more than 10 years, but he does not forget about Georgia. He wears a hat for every fight: “Yes, we, the Caucasian peoples, have such a tradition. Of course, my grandfather and older people use this headgear. We lived in the mountains, drove animals and spent a lot of time in the cold air, so we wore such hats. This is our Caucasian historical tradition. I just want to show people where I’m from and what our traditions are.”
Before the general ban, Dvalishvili entered the octagon with the flag of Georgia, and then he came up with a detour: “I received an email, they told me that it was impossible to take the flag with me to the next fight – I took it and got a tattoo. Georgia is close to my heart and I will always represent it in the most worthy way.”
And so he spoke about Stalin: “I personally do not like Joseph Stalin. I know that he was born in Georgia, but I don’t think he was Georgian. What Stalin did to people was to kill them and be a dictator. Maybe he won the war against the Nazis, but he was a dictator and destroyed people, sent them to Siberia [to camps]. He killed so many people, his policy killed so many people… I don’t like him, the Georgians don’t like him.”
Took out a loan to prepare for the fight and worked as a loader when he made his debut in the UFC
After moving to the USA, Dvalishvili thought that several successful fights would lead him to the championship, but there were problems – both with finding a gym and with coaches. Only a few months later he got into the team with Matt Serra and Ray Longo.
In 2014, Dvalishvili made his MMA debut as a professional, but immediately lost. Then there was another defeat. Dvalishvili was very worried, because the transition to the UFC seemed impossible – after that he did not compete for a year and a half.
But he returned to the sport and won five fights in a row in a year. In 2017, Dana White attended the RING OF COMBAT event at the Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight show, where Dvalishvili fought against the undefeated Raufen Stots. Then everyone was watching Stots, but Dvalishvili knocked him out in 15 seconds – and immediately got a contract with the UFC.
He lost in his debut fight to Frankie Saenz. Then – another defeat from Ricky Simon, who was awarded the victory by choke after the final gong. Then Dvalishvili worked as a loader – the bonus for the fight of the evening was a salvation.
He hoped that thanks to this he would completely focus on his career as a fighter. Even after his debut in the UFC, he did not have enough money for training. Six months later, the bonus money ran out, so for the sake of a training camp before the third fight, he took out a loan and returned to work.
“Now it seems unimaginable to me how I could combine work and a career as a fighter,” said Dvalishvili. – At first in the USA I worked as a loader. It was very hard work, I had to get up at four in the morning and drive very far. It was impossible to combine this with training. None of the Georgian guys with whom we got a job there worked for a long time – it was so hard there.
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