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Rafael Fiziev recalls Valentina Shevchenko reffing his combat sports debut at age 12

Rafael Fiziev may still have been a kid in his first fight, but he isn’t likely to ever forget the circumstances.

During an appearance on The MMA Hour, Fiziev, who headlines UFC Vegas 58 this Saturday opposite Rafael dos Anjos, told the story of his first-ever muay Thai fight, which took place before he’d even hit his teen years.

“Twelve,” Fiziev said when asked how old he was for his debut fight. “My first fight opponent, around 18 or 19 years old.”

“I take a s***, man,” he continued, describing his nervousness. “I take a s***, this is my first fight. I take a s*** before the fight.”

Somehow, Fiziev competing at such a young age is not the most unbelievable part of the story.

Working as the referee for Fiziev’s fight was fellow Kyrgyz and future UFC star Valentina Shevchenko.

Fiziev remembers Shevchenko being no nonsense when it came to enforcing the rules. At one point, she had to get physical with “Ataman” to set he and his opponent straight.

“She’s a good referee,” Fiziev said. “She put her finger in my mouth when she tried to separate us. I don’t know why. Because we fight like dogs, man. I remember her finger in my mouth and she went like [makes fish hook gesture].”

It was the only time that Shevchenko would referee one of his fights, but not the last time that Fiziev and “Bullet” would work together. The two later trained together in their native Kyrgyzstan, though both would eventually leave the country to join other camps.

Unsurprisingly, Fiziev speaks highly of the intensity that Shevchenko brought to their sparring sessions.

“I trained with her a long time ago, but I’m in Thailand, she’s in America, so we haven’t trained together in a long time ago,” Fiziev said. “But I sparred with her many times, when I was 14 years old I sparred with her the first time. … She spars hard.”

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