Rafael Fiziev started out fighting in China, Thailand and Korea. The Kyrgyz lightweight has spent a lot of time training at Tiger Muay Thai and is riding a four fight winning streak in the UFC.

This weekend at UFC Vegas 44 he faces another Tiger Muay Thai alumni in Brad Riddell. Fiziev sat down with UFC.com to discuss his career trajectory and his family history,

“I fight because (of) money and glory. When I start to walk to the octagon I feel like I’m at home.”

First love

He made his pro MMA debut in 2015 in China. But Fiziev, who is currently ranked #14 at lightweight says his journey to the UFC began years earlier,

“From 12 years old I fight, now I’m 28. For me its how I live, in the cage I live.”

his mother is from Russia and his father from Azerbaijan but Fiziev grew up in Kyrgyzstan. He was forced to box from an early age and says fighting is an important part of the culture he comes from,

“This is love for me, this is first love because my family in history were warriors from an area where you need to be a warrior. If you’re not a warrior you’re nothing.”

Touching distance

Riddell, who is ranked at #12, also started out fighting in China while training at Tiger Muay Thai. The parallels between the two lightweights are obvious but for Fiziev this is the culmination of two decades of work.

His UFC career got off to the worst possible start when he was stopped on his octagon debut. But Fiziev has turned things around and says it still feels surreal to be within touching distance of his dream,

“Sometimes I can’t believe I’m here, I’m in the UFC because all this started 20 years ago and I’m so close for a title run and for my dream”