Bellator and Rizin clash on historic New Year's Eve card

Bellator and RIZIN Looking to Break the MMA Mold

Bellator MMA and RIZIN Fighting Federation (RIZIN) are doing something special to close out the year. It’s something only longtime, hardcore fans have dreamed of. The “what if” conversations about a top-ranked fighter from one MMA promotion facing another fighter of equal level from another promotion are not just speculation anymore. Bellator will be in Japan for New Year’s Eve and participate in their tradition of holding some great fights on the last night of the year.

In a virtual press conference held on Tuesday, both Bellator MMA president Scott Coker and RIZIN president, Nobuyuki Sakakibara agreed that what they are doing on New Year’s Eve will not be a one-off event. They both decided that they would like to do at least two events in one year putting their best fighters out for the world to see. 

“The best fighters should fight the best fighters,” Coker said to the media when talking about what he and Sakakibara are trying to do on New Year’s Eve. 

In a recent episode of “RIZIN Confessions”, Sakakibara said, “The influence the UFC has in our industry is about 80 ~ 85%. So, we all have to get together and do something that they aren’t doing, and build it into something that will penetrate the global market.”

Before MMA became as popular as it is now, Sakakibara ran Pride Fighting Championships and regularly brought great fights to MMA fans on New Year’s Eve. When Pride went away, it seemed like so did that tradition. Then, in 2015 Sakakibara looked to start it again and revealed at the press conference that with the help of Coker RIZIN was able to present a martial arts competition in a way fans missed and were used to the New Year’s Eve tradition.

Sakakibara said, “This will be Rizin’s 7th New Year’s Eve event, and back then Scott Coker provided his fighters from the start. This New Year’s Eve event has become a tradition, and we have always wanted to make it the peak of our season. People are always anticipating what they will see each year.”

This year it is Bellator’s best against RIZIN’s best and when asked how they think their fighters would do on fight night, both promoters expressed confidence in their fighters. 

Coker said, “We want to go 5-0. In this landscape, it’s very hard to do, but we want to go undefeated on New Year’s Eve.”

Sakakibara wants the same; “We also believe we can go 5-0, this is a great opportunity for Rizin’s fighters to shock the world. It would instantly make our fighters recognized throughout the world. It not only raises the Rizin brand, but it raises their individual brand.”

SHOWTIME will be airing this New Year’s Eve event that has Bellator MMA Fighters going into RIZIN’s territory. See the fight card airtime below:



Saturday, December 31 — 8 PM ET/PT 

Lightweight Non-Title Main Event: AJ McKee (19-1) vs. Roberto de Souza (14-1)

Featherweight Non-Title Main Event: Patricio Pitbull (34-5) vs. Kleber Koike (31-5-1)

Flyweight Feature Bout: Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2)

Bantamweight Feature Bout: Juan Archuleta (26-4) vs. Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4-2) vs. Koji Takeda (15-3)

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Edward Carbajal
Edward holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Bachelor's degree in Communications. Along with over 30 years of martial arts experience, he co-hosts The Coast-2-Coast Combat Hour podcast, and also writes for Spectation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel