Merab Dvalishvili signed with the UFC this past weekend.
On the NJ MMA News Podcast, the Tbilisi, Georgia native confirmed his next fight will take place inside the UFC octagon.
“I’m in the UFC now,” Dvalishvili said on Wednesday, June 7. “I am always going to do the big fight and people can see who I am.”
After finishing Raufeon Stots (8-1 MMA) with a spinning back fist 20 seconds into the opening round at Ring of Combat 59 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dvalishvili (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) jumped on the cage and hugged his coach Matt Serra.
Serra embraced the champion and said “You are going to the UFC.” For Dvalishvili, those words meant a lot.
(Video Credit: Alliance MMA)
“When he told me I was going to the UFC, I was so happy,” Dvalishvili said. “Serra is a legendary fighter and I am happy to be training with him.”
The opportunity came when UFC President Dana White visited the event to film an episode of “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight.” White, along with his co-hosts Serra and Din Thomas, visited Dvalishvili backstage following the bout.
Dvalishvili said White expected to sign Stots after the fight, but he is happy to accept the contract instead.
“After the fight, he told me ‘Congratulations Merab, you are another fighter from Team Serra Longo in the UFC now.'” Dvalishvili said. “He told me he was thinking Stots was going to win and would sign with the UFC, but I changed everything.”
It is not the first time one of Serra’s fighters had a chance to impress White on the UFC Fight Pass show.
On season one, episode one, Serra visited his fighter Robert Plotkin in the locker room before his co-main event bout against Randy Brown at ROC 53 on Nov. 20, 2015.
Brown knocked out Plotkin with a knee in the first round. After the win, Brown earned a UFC contract and is currently (3-2) in the octagon.
Fast forward to episode two of season two, UFC Bantamweight Aljamain Sterling’s brother, Troy Sterling competed against Kenny Richmond at Cage Fury Fighting Championships 63 on Feb. 18.
The bout ended in a draw and neither fighters earned a contract.
Dvalishvili is not sure when he is making his debut, but is hoping he can join teammate Chris Weidman on the UFC on Fox 25 card in Uniondale, New York taking place Saturday, July 22. His other teammate, Gian Villante is competing against Patrick Cummins on the main card.
Although many of his family members still live in the country of Georgia, Dvalishvili made a family with his teammates. He said Long Island, New York is his adopted home and he wants to fight there.
“My next fight, I think it will be July, 22 in Long Island at the Nassau Colliseum,” Dvalishvili said. “I want to fight the big names.”
By Connor Northrup