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.”
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SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
I don’t knock Herro. It’s not something he’s familiar with and he’s trying to learn and I’ll never make fun of that.— Jillian DeCoursey (@lionheartjill) January 9, 2023
But I will knock a trainer (assuming he’s training him) who says “again just like that” when “just like that” is not the way to do it https://t.co/O4OPM9ukhI
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Why is he kind for your thievery, Paulo?
Merab is a very nice guy. I stoles his food in UFC pi for long 2 months and he never said nothing. he has a good taste for shrimps and rice btw— Paulo Costa ( Borrachinha ) (@BorrachinhaMMA) January 9, 2023
3rd kid’s gonna be named Battlestations. https://t.co/tl4E6qmPvc— Zane Simon (@TheZaneSimon) January 9, 2023
The Last Emperor.
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I’m extremely disappointed to say the least. This not how I wanted to start 2023.— #OnAmission4Gold (@KelvinGastelum) January 9, 2023
I worked my ass off & battled through a lot of adversary and was ready to put on a hell of a show this weekend.
I apologize to Imavov, his camp as well as @ufc and all the fans. #OnAmission4Gold
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Love you all! Appreciate you all that send good energy and your kind words.
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He is speed.
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
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!
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?”
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:
Is Gaethje vs. Fiziev the fight to make?
This poll is closed