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Justin Gaethje assesses damage in Rafael Fiziev fight: ‘He was drowning in his blood’

Justin Gaethje welcomed Rafael Fiziev to his kingdom of violence with open arms.

“The Highlight” won a majority decision over Fiziev in the UFC 286 co-main event after three fantastic rounds of action that saw both lightweight contenders get their licks in. Though Fiziev brought the fight to Gaethje, he was unable to defeat the two-time UFC title challenger and was left with a bloody face — an an extra $50,000 for the Fight of the Night — for his efforts.

At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Gaethje was asked where Fiziev ranked among his most violent opponents and he praised the Kyrgyz fighter for his toughness.

“He’s impressive,” Gaethje said. “It was impressive, but I fought such a good fight. His body kicks weren’t effective. I blocked a lot of those shots with my elbows, my elbows are really swollen right now. Those are going to really hurt tomorrow or for the next five or six days.

“But man, the damage that I was able to-He wanted to taste blood. He wanted to taste my blood, but unfortunately he was drowning in his blood. I’m happy about that.”

An NCAA Division-I All-American wrestler, Gaethje flashed some of that grappling acumen with a takedown in the closing moments of the fight. Gaethje has historically used his wrestling background for defensive purposes and for the most part, he stood and traded with the Muay Thai-hardened Fiziev.

Gaethje admitted he took pride in beating Fiziev at his own game.

“They called him the best striker in the UFC,” Gaethje said. “My ability to get from Point A to Point B is second to none. I’m extremely athletic and I believe in myself. You have to control their feet.

“I saw a lot of repetitiveness in his fighting style that I thought I would be able to take advantage of and he was fast, but I really wanted to fight this guy ever since he put that video of Conor [McGregor] getting his d*** s***** on a boat and referenced that it was me, I really wanted to f*** him up so I’m glad I got to make his face look like that.”

Despite the competitive contest, Gaethje came out looking less damaged than he has in some of his previous wars, like his classic battles with Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier. Gaethje may have a propensity for brawls, but he’s glad that both he and Fiziev were able to walk away from this one.

“I look pretty good,” Gaethje said. “I did a good job. The key is to not get hit and I did a good job with that. I took a couple of shots, I’d say two or three to the head, but I asked, I prayed multiple times that neither one of us sustain chronic injury, that’s to the head. So that was my plan.”

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