Beneil Dariush is enjoying his best run in years, but can’t seem to net a ranked opponent.

Dariush (18-4-1 MMA, 12-4-1 UFC) faces Scott Holtzman at UFC on ESPN+ 32, which takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

It took a while for the fight to get finalized since Dariush was in the midst of negotiating a new contract. He’s won four in a row and is coming off three straight “Performance of the Night” bonuses, which Dariush believes should warrant a bump in pay.

But Dariush explained that while he has a great relationship with UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, there just weren’t any ranked opponents available for him to fight.

“I was trying to get a top 10 fight, top 15 fight,” Dariush told MMA Junkie Radio. “And I messaged (Shelby) and I was like, ‘What’s going on man?’ And then he calls me and he’s like, ‘Well this is my problem …’ Sean starts talking and we just start going through the list of the top 15 and top 10, as well.

“I was like, ‘What about this guy?’ ‘Well, this is going on with him.’ ‘What about this guy?’ ‘He’s fighting this guy.’ ‘What about him?’ And he just kind of went through everybody. And I’m like, all right, there isn’t really anybody right now. And so I was like, ‘All right, I’ll take somebody outside of the top 15,’ and that’s how this Scott Holtzman fight came up.”

Holtzman (14-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) may not be ranked, but that doesn’t mean Dariush is taking him lightly. He acknowledged the run Holtzman’s been on, in which he’s won five of his past six.

“He’s an absolute stud, and you see him grow. I’ve been studying him, obviously, because of the fight. But he’s an absolute stud and you see his growth,” Dariush said. “I’m watching his fights, and I see his growth and his last fight with (Jim) Miller, who’s only gotten tougher. Be was able to control and he took over the fight in the last two rounds and kind of dominated him. So he’s an absolute stud. If I’m off even by a second in this fight, I’ll lose.”

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