LONDON – Rafael Fiziev intends to show Justin Gaethje a “real highlight” with a spectacular performance at UFC 286.
Fiziev (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) brings a six-fight winning streak in the lightweight division to Saturday’s co-main event with Gaethje (23-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), which takes place at The O2 in London with a main card that airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and ESPN+. It’s a big opportunity against a former interim UFC champion, and Fiziev plans to display “more skills” inside the octagon.
“I’m waiting for the best Gaethje in front of me,” Fiziev told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s media day. “I’m waiting. I want him in his best shape and I want a hard fight with him. I want blood.”
Gaethje has built a reputation as one of the most exciting and violent fighters on the UFC roster during his tenure. He’s won 10 fight-night bonuses in as many fights with the promotion, but is coming off one of his more lopsided losses in a title fight against Charles Oliveira at UFC 274 in May 2022.
After the loss, Gaethje underwent surgery for a broken nose. That raises questions about his lasting ability to take damage, which Fiziev intends to put to the test.
“I go in and do my job,” Fiziev said. “Touch him with first punch, second – it doesn’t matter. I go in to take his heart.”
If Fiziev manages to emerge victorious in the most high-profile bout of his career, he would be on the short list for a title shot at 155 pounds. Reigning champ Islam Makhachev doesn’t currently have a fight, but the UFC 288 matchup between Oliveira and Beneil Dariush has the makings of a title eliminator.
Fiziev will accept the reality if he has to defer the title shot to the Oliveira vs. Dariush, but he certainly won’t say no if the shot comes his way instead.
“If I beat him, I deserve that title shot,” Fiziev said. “But UFC also make it how they want. I can say if they give title shot for winner of Oliveira and Dariush, OK. Dariush – I think he deserves it more than everyone in this division. If they give it to me, also I’m happy.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.
Rafael Fiziev wants statement win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 286: ‘I go in to take his heart’