Rafael Fiziev looked up to Rafael dos Anjos, but now the 29-year-old rising star has to fight the future Hall of Famer Saturday night ... and any lingering reverence is now just a desire to kick RDA's ass!
TMZ Sports talked to 29-year-old, #10 ranked UFC lightweight ahead of his main event scrap with the #7 ranked, 37-year-old former champion at UFC Fight Night from the Apex in Vegas ... and we asked Fiziev about fighting someone he came up watching.
"This is for me a dream fight because I watched him a long time ago. I start to watch him in 2014, something like that, and yeah, followed him long time ago just because his name is Rafa and his style also close to me," Fiziev says.
Is this the most important fight of your career, we asked?
"Yeah, this is the biggest in my career and I'm happy with this."
You're likely aware of RDA's resume ... but Fiziev's is pretty damn impressive, too. He's 11-1 professionally for his career, and is in the midst of a 5-fight win streak. Rafael's beat Brad Riddell (KO, Dec 2021) and Bobby Green (UD, Aug 2021) in his last two fights.
So, if Fiziev beats RDA, where does that put him in the stacked division? He doesn't really care.
"Doesn't matter. I don't think about positions. I know he stays in the top 7 and after this fight, he put me in the 7th or the 8th or the 9th, it doesn't matter. I know he's a good name. He fights with stars, with All-Stars in the UFC before and now and I know when I beat him, this is everyone starts to talk to me."