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Sterling implores O'Malley to 'stop ducking the top contenders'

Cooper Neill / UFC / Getty

Former UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling has had enough of Sean O'Malley's unwillingness to grant him an immediate rematch.

Sterling called O'Malley out after winning a grappling match at Polaris 25 on Saturday, telling the titleholder to defend his belt against him or No. 2-ranked bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili next.

"I got a message for Mr. Suga T--s - because he's still that to me," Sterling said in his post-match interview on UFC Fight Pass. "Hey, give me my rematch or fight Merab. It's that simple.

"Stop ducking the top contenders and be a man and be a real champion and fight the best of the best. That's what I did. Now you need to turn around and do the same exact shit. Let's go."

Sterling, one of the greatest bantamweights in UFC history, lost the 135-pound title to O'Malley via second-round TKO at UFC 292 in August. Sterling planned to move up to the featherweight division with a win over O'Malley, but he said immediately after the fight he wanted to try to regain the bantamweight belt.

Since UFC 292, O'Malley has set his sights on a rematch with Marlon Vera. Vera, the No. 6-ranked bantamweight, handed O'Malley his sole pro defeat in 2020.

While nothing has been finalized, it's likely that O'Malley's first title defense - whether against Sterling, Dvalishvili, Vera, or someone else - will take place in the first quarter of 2024.

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