Rafael Fiziev had options for his callout after his UFC Vegas 58 win over Rafael dos Anjos. In particular, the sport’s most famous superstar — Conor McGregor — beefed with Fiziev all throughout fight week. It would’ve made sense for Fiziev to try to capitalize on the headlines and land inside the McGregor orbit for the Irishman’s eventual UFC comeback.
But that’s not Fiziev’s style.
The 29-year-old lightweight contender instead turned his crosshairs toward Justin Gaethje. And the silence he’s heard since from the two-time title challenger has been deafening.
“Everyone tries to call out McGregor,” Fiziev said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “Everyone tries to call out him. I don’t understand it and I don’t want to step in the same way. Everyone, who — [Michael] Chandler, everyone wants a fight with him. OK, somebody go and fight with this guy. But for me, I want Gaethje now.
“But where is Gaethje? I don’t know why [he hasn’t responded]. I’m wondering why he still doesn’t answer me. He has also injury, same [as me]. We need to know. We need to find out who is the nose job [king], who is better now. But he still says nothing.”
A matchup between Fiziev and Gaethje certainly makes sense.
Fiziev’s win over dos Anjos jumped him into the No. 7 spot on MMA Fighting’s lightweight rankings, while Gaethje is currently sitting at No. 4. Fiziev’s rise has been highlighted by six straight wins under the UFC umbrella, including big knockouts of Renato Moicano, Brad Riddell, and dos Anjos. He’s won post-fight bonuses in the last five of those bouts. Gaethje, likewise, has been a bonus machine in the UFC, racking up 10 post-fight bonuses during his 10-fight octagon run. In a division overflowing with strong wrestlers, Fiziev is confident his stand-up style is exactly what Gaethje is looking for after his recent loss to Charles Oliveira.
“That’s a good fight for him,” Fiziev said. “What, if he doesn’t fight with me, then who? If he doesn’t fight me, with who you can go into a fight with? With [Beneil] Dariush or [Mateusz] Gamrot? This is not a good match for him. For him, this is a good match with me now, because he likes stand-up fighting. He likes to fight and I like to fight. He wants to wrestle? Then he [can fight] Dariush or Gamrot. I think I’m the perfect match for him now.”
The timelines may match up as well. Both Fiziev and Gaethje recently underwent surgery to repair their injured noses.
Fiziev said he hasn’t heard back from UFC officials regarding his proposition, but he and his team remain hopeful.
“I think it’s too soon [to know], because they both got off surgery so it depends on when both of them can come back,” said Fiziev’s manager and translator Sayat Abdrakhmanov. “But potentially it’s fight of the year, this kind of fight. Stylistically, it’s fan friendly.”
Fiziev added he believes he’ll be “really close” to a UFC title shot if he’s able to get the Gaethje fight and win.
Oliveira is currently set to face Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 280, however the division is lacking a true No. 1 contender after that fight. Fiziev wants to be that guy. He predicted Makhachev to defeat Oliveira and said he likes the stylistic matchup between himself and the feared Dagestani sambo artist.
But first Fiziev needs to get back to full health. He’s still waiting to find out his timeline for a return, but he’s hoping to fight again before 2022 is over.
“I hope. We’ll see what happens with my nose,” Fiziev said. “Last time when I make surgery for my knee, my knee surgery, like after seven months I was ready to fight. I’m a quick healer. You know, I’m like a street dog — if I have some injuries, it’s [healing] fast. And I hope this time is the same.”