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Rafael Fiziev challenges Justin Gaethje: ‘We need to know who’s the best’

UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos v Fiziev Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Having won the battle for “Best Rafael” at UFC Vegas 58, lightweight Rafael Fiziev has moved on to heavy-handed strikers, namely Justin Gaethje.

Fiziev called out the two-time title challenger following his fifth-round stoppage of ex-champ Rafael dos Anjos. It was a serious callout, unlike the one he issued to tennis god Rafael Nadal in the moments after his win this past Saturday at UFC APEX.

“I want a fight with Gaethje, like for real,” Fiziev told reporters at the post-fight presser for UFC Vegas 58. “Nadal is funny ... but Gaethje, if he wants to fight –what camera do I need to [look at]? yeah, this one. ...”

Fiziev shifted directly to a reporter’s camera.

“If you want to fight, one more guy with yellow hairs, we need to know who’s the best for you and for me,” he continued. “If you’re ready, if you’re not scared, if you don’t take s***, let’s go.”

The 29-year-old striking specialist from Kazakhstan clarified his request isn’t capitalizing on perceived weakness. He believes Gaethje would be just as hard of a challenge as dos Anjos.

“I think he makes my face the same like this, maybe more hard,” Fiziev said. “He’s dangerous. He’s a big challenge for me. He has a lot of chance to knock me out, and I have a lot of chance to knock him out. But yeah, that’s a good fight, for fans also.

“He have s*** kicks, but he has good power in his hands.”

At the very least, it would get Fiziev’s manager and coach going, though that isn’t anything special. In deep waters with the former champ dos Anjos, Fiziev’s corner told him to get moving in a less polite manner. He wasn’t thinking about whether or not he was ahead, but that sure changed when he answered the bell for the final round of the fight.

“In Round 5, my friend and manager and corner, he started to talk to me like his dog, and he started to say to me bad words,” Fiziev said. “‘He said, ‘Hey, what the f*** are you doing? Go in and f*** him up, or I’ll f*** you up when we go back to the hotel.’ I think, oh, I need to go to Round 5 and do something. ... He always talks with me like this.”

It did the trick. A left hook staggered dos Anjos in the opening exchange of the final round, and a follow-up right briefly put the Brazilian out. It was Fiziev’s sixth straight win in the UFC and likely will bump him up in the top-15; he’s currently No. 10 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.

Saturday’s win serves another purpose, he said. It shows the world he’s ready for a title-length fight – and a title-worthy opponent.

“It’s a big difference [fighting five rounds], but yeah, I’m tired,” he said. “But I got a finish in the fifth round. This means something – I can fight five rounds.”

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