Brad Riddell is downplaying the fact he and his friend Rafael Fiziev used to spar.

When Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 31 matchup between Riddell (10-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and Fiziev (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) was announced, many had a hard time believing it was actually happening since they had formed a friendship over the years training in Phuket, Thailand.

And while that’s true, Riddell explained he called Fiziev as soon as he was offered the fight to make sure they were on the same page. Fighting each other isn’t ideal, but Riddell says the UFC matched them up because they were the only ranked fighters available who were willing to compete before the end of the year.

“I used to bump into him a little bit in Phuket when he was down at Phuket Top Team,” Riddell told Submission Radio. “And then when I left my job, he took over. And then I think I was there for about a year or so while he was still coaching, and we trained together a bit and sparred and wrestled. Everyone seems to think that’s a massive deal. But I’ve trained with a few guys in that top 15, like Arman (Tsarukyan) and Damir (Ismagulov), Rafael, obviously Dan (Hooker). So it’s nothing too shocking from my point of view.”

“Business. It’s just business. I want to make money to feed my kids, and he wants to make money to feed his kids. He wants to be the champ. So do I. So you just think about that instead of thinking about the fact that we’re mates – just think about it as like healthy competition. And in my opinion, he’s one of the best in the top 15, for sure, and so I want to test myself against him because, I mean, why would you not want to test yourself against the best people in the world? I think Raf’s one of the best for sure.”

With Riddell currently training at City Kickboxing and Fiziev at Sanford MMA, Riddell said his sparring sessions with Fiziev bear no weight in his eyes considering how much both men have transformed since then.

“It was like four or five years ago,” Riddell said. “He’s changed a lot since then, and I’ve changed a lot. I barely did MMA back then, so a whole heap’s changed for me. But I definitely don’t think I’ll rely on those sparring sessions too much. You change in like six months, three months in this sport. It evolves so quickly. You can’t rely on some sh*t from four years ago.

“I feel like we’re very similar. We’re very evenly matched sort of everywhere. I don’t think either of us stand out significantly above each other in any aspect of the sport. So I think it’s going to be a very even, interesting fight. It will be, I guess, who turns up on the night”

“From memory, obviously he’s hard to strike with. Even though he hasn’t wrestled much in the UFC, he’s a very good wrestler. He’s got some pretty good submissions up his sleeve and stuff like that. It’s hard to say, because I’m not going to talk sh*t about my mate. But it’s going to be a pretty epic fight. I think as excited as everybody is, they have good reason to be.”


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