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Morning Report: Rafael Fiziev promised Justin Gaethje fight in March, will be ‘shocked’ if it doesn’t happen

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

Rafael Fiziev is closer than ever to having his wish come true.

Azerbaijan’s Fiziev has made it clear who he wants to fight since reaching the division’s official Top 15. Fiziev wants former UFC interim champion Justin Gaethje, and according to him, the matchup is currently being worked on for the first quarter of 2023.

“I’m not announcing anything, but the UFC promised us that I’ll be fighting Justin Gaethje in March,” Fiziev told Captain Hardcore (h/t Red Corner MMA). “Everyone wants this fight, Dana White wants this fight. I was told to get ready for March.

“We’re waiting for the contract to make it official. That’s what it is as of now. If something changes, I’ll be shocked.”

One of the highlighted “issues” around the lightweight elite in recent months has been that all of the most notable names have only been fighting each other. Therefore, the rising contenders aren’t getting their opportunities to climb and further establish themselves.

Fellow contender alongside Fiziev, Arman Tsarukyan, noted recently how the likes of Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, and Michael Chandler only fight each other and need to fight new faces or leave. For Gaethje, his last fight came opposite the former champion Charles Oliveira, who is also in that mix, and last expressed interest in a Poirier rematch over all other options. Despite that, Fiziev has full confidence that things will materialize in his favor.

“If it gets canceled, I’ll record a story like, ‘UFC, what’s going on?’” Fiziev said. “[Location] is the only question. They said either [London or Las Vegas], March 4 or 18.

“I like that the UFC supported this fight from the beginning. Gaethje is being quiet, [his manager] Ali Abdelaziz tried to say something. They are still doing what they’ve been doing. The UFC wants it. When the UFC wants it, they make it happen.”

To say Fiziev has earned his shot at a top-tier name like Gaethje is an understatement. “Ataman’s” biggest career win yet came in his last time out in July 2022, knocking out former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to extend his current streak to six straight.

While Gaethje’s popularity alone would boost Fiziev after a potential win, there are several other factors worth mentioning.

“Probably everything combined,” Fiziev said of his interest in Gaethje. “It’s a big challenge for me. It’s a dangerous fight for me. He’s a strong fighter, it’s also something very interesting for me, something that brings me joy and makes me energetic.

“I’ve never seen anyone call out Gaethje. Nobody said, ‘Gaethje, Gaethje, Gaethje, come fight me.’ Not sure, maybe you can correct me. I like that. I like that I’m the first to call him out and I truly want to fight him. Also, it’ll bring me closer to the title. I know I’m close. If I beat Gaethje in spectacular fashion, I’ll easily be able to fight for the title.”


TOP STORIES

Shakeup. Kelvin Gastelum out, Sean Strickland now faces Nassourdine Imavov in UFC Vegas 67 main event

Reaction. KSI on Dillon Danis withdrawing from fight: ‘We probably had a bit too much faith in him

Hiatus. Khabib Nurmagomedovtaking some time off for his family’ but undecided on longterm future in MMA

Bait. Michael Bisping calls Jake Paul challenging Nate Diaz to MMA fight ‘all smoke and mirrors

Confidence. Marlon Vera confident UFC title shot will come: ‘They do want me to hold the belt

Departure. Francisco Trinaldoa bit offended’ by UFC release, likes the idea of PFL tourney next


VIDEO STEW

The MMA Hour.

Free fight.

Silva’s title capture.

Top 5 2022 Bellator debuts.

Invicta FC 51 trailer.

BTS.

Khamzat in Dubai part 3.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Sure isn’t.

Cinema.

Why is he kind for your thievery, Paulo?

Throwback.

Possible.

The Last Emperor.

Cool.

Safety first.

Have you?

Travels.

Nice.

Reaction.

He is speed.

Wild view.


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Nassourdine Imavov (12-3) vs. Sean Strickland (25-5); UFC Vegas 67, Jan. 14

Rin Nakai (25-2-1) vs. Aoi Kuriyama (4-4-1); DEEP JEWELS 40, Feb. 18


FINAL THOUGHTS

As much fun as Poirier vs. Gaethje 2 would be, any and all Gaethje fights are fun so it doesn’t really matter. Let’s give the new guys a chance to prove themselves.

Thanks for reading!


POLL POSITION

Last Week’s Results:

Friday: 83% of 528 total votes answered “No” when asked, “Is Islam Makhachev the most well-rounded lightweight of all time?

Wednesday: 55% of 808 total votes answered “Cory Sandhagen” when asked, “Who’s your early pick?” Sandhagen vs. Marlon “Chito” Vera headlines UFC Vegas 69 on Feb. 18.

Tuesday: 48% of 600 total votes answered “Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington” when asked, “Which fight has the most realistic chance of happening in 2023?

Monday: 63% of 380 total votes answered “No” when asked, “Do Sean O’Malley and Marlon Vera rematch in 2023 with the belt on the line?

Today’s exit poll:

Poll

Is Gaethje vs. Fiziev the fight to make?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Yes
    (489 votes)
  • 9%
    No
    (54 votes)
543 votes total Vote Now

If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @DrakeRiggs_ on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

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