Kyoji Horiguchi has held both Bellator and RIZIN Fighting Federation titles but on New Year’s Eve, he’ll be fighting on the Bellator side of the fight card for the Bellator vs Rizin event announced earlier this week.
Horiguchi admitted feeling some guilt because he is Japanese and RIZIN is Japan’s big mixed martial arts promotion. However, his contract currently is with Bellator so he has to fight on that side of this “versus” event Bellator President, Scott Coker and RIZIN Fighting Federation President Nobuyuki Sakakibara have put together.
“I feel like I’ve betrayed the RIZIN fans, and I’m very sorry for that, but I stand here today on the BELLATOR side.” – Kyoji Horiguchi
Coker and Sakakibara have an understanding and vision for the sport of mixed martial arts where the best fighters are able to face one another, regardless of where they are signed to fight. Horiguchi was able to be the champion in both promotions because the two promoters share the same passion and ideas of what MMA competition should be about, but of course, it has its downside.
Back in 2019 when Horiguchi was the champion of both promotions in their first co-promotion venture, he got injured and had to relinquish both titles. It was just before COVID-19 hit and the road to getting back to normal enough to do it again was long and hard, but at this week’s press conference in Japan, when the matches were announced it looked like they wanted to pick up where they left off.
“This will be the first time in the history of MMA that two promotions will fully go at it with their best guys,” said Sakakibara. “For the spectators and for the fans, you get to choose who to root for. MMA is an individual sport, but if you want to support Team RIZIN or if you want to support Team BELLATOR, we want to introduce a new way of enjoying mixed martial arts.”
The matchups should have the hardcore MMA fans chomping at the bit to see this event, and all parties seem to be approaching New Year’s Eve respectfully. Except, Horiguchi’s opponent Hiromasa Ougikubo. They have faced each other twice before and Ougikubo made it clear he’s out to avenge those losses.
“I admit I respect what Horiguchi has done;” Ougikubo told the media, “He’s fought tough opponents and he’s had significant accomplishments. However, I’ve fought him twice, and he’s hit me so many times that I hate his guts. I need to repay my debt in this next fight, and I will promise that I will return all that favor to him.”
While Horiguchi was apologetic to his Japanese fans, he also made it clear he is not coming unprepared into the New Year. “This is going to be our third fight,” Horiguchi said, “and I’ll make sure he’ll never want to fight me ever again.”
The event will use the RIZIN ring and rule set since the event is in Japan. See the fight card and broadcast details below:
BELLATOR MMA VS. RIZIN MAIN CARD Saturday, Dec. 31 – 8 p.m. ET /PT on SHOWTIME
Featherweight Main Event: Patricio Pitbull (34-5) vs. Kleber Koike (30-5-1)
Lightweight Co-Main Event: AJ McKee (19-1) vs. Roberto de Souza (14-1)
Bantamweight Bout: Juan Archuleta (26-4) vs. Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1)
Flyweight Bout: Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2)
Edward holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Bachelor’s degree in Communications. Along with over 20 years martial arts experience, he co-hosts The Coast-2-Coast Combat Hour, and also writes for Sherdog while maintaining his own site, The Blogboard Jungle. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel