The UFC’s lightweight division is an exciting place heading into the summer, and crowd-pleasing 155er Rafael Fiziev plans to make sure he’s in the thick of it.
Fiziev is set to take on former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Santos on July 9 in a bout that could catapult him into the championship mix. That’s certainly how “Ataman” sees it, and he told Submission Radio exactly how he views the state of the UFC’s lightweight division.
“Yeah, if everything goes good I see one more fight and fight for the belt shortly,” he said.
“I see maybe somebody, maybe Gaethje or Porirer after. Poirier’s going to 170, yeah? Maybe Gaethje next one. We’ll see, we’ll see.
“But after this fight, if all goes well, I want one more fight and then a title shot.”
Fiziev’s spectacular striking has made him a surefire hit with fans across the world, but while his confidence in his skills may be high, he has also been sure to make sure he has the rest of the lightweight contenders well scouted.
He even went so far as to predict that Russian contender Islam Makhachev will become champion before he gets to fight for the belt.
“I think Islam is next champion,” he stated.
“I think for sure Islam is next champion. And when I think about the belt, I think about Islam and I’m start to get ready now.
“I think he’s the best lightweight because he’s got good striking, he’s got good reaction, good distance, perfect wrestling, perfect grappling, (a) strong heart and (a) big fanbase.”
If that prediction comes true, it means Makhachev will likely have defeated former champion Charles Oliveira, who lost his title after failing to make weight for his recent title defence against Justin Gaethje.
But Fiziev was also full of praise for “Do Bronx,” as he hailed the Brazilian for reinventing himself as a lightweight after moving up a division following patchy form – both in the cage and on the scale – at 145 pounds.
“Oliveira, he made it all good,” he said.
“I thought Oliveira did not have good heart before, but now he changed that.
“Before, Cub Swanson just punch him one time and he’d go to the floor and start crying. And one time Felder gave him one elbow and he started to cry and he lost.
“After this fight I thought, ‘Oh, he does not have heart, he broke,’ all this. But now, after the Poirier fight, he punched him so hard, he’s going to the floor, stood up and went and fought again and won. Same with Gaethje.
“Yeah, he showed me. Now I understand this guy. He’s changed. He changed his heart. His heart is strong. He go to floor, stand up and beat [his opponents]. This I respect.”