Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri have drawn each other for Rizin Fighting Federation’s opening round of the lightweight Grand Prix. One man, one of Bellator MMA’s staple lightweights and the other, a man that has been a staple in Japan’s MMA history. While any man in a tournament format has the chance to face any of the names listed, Freire and Kawajiri being matched up with one another seem to have allowed both men to check off a bucket list item in their MMA careers.
Kawajiri was present at the drawing while Freire participated via Skype during the event streamed by Rizin this morning and both commented on what it means that they happen to draw each other in the opening round. Translated in a press release from Rizin, Kawajiri said, “I made my professional debut at 21, and in my 20’s entered the PRIDE GP thinking that I was the best in the world, and got my butt kicked by Gomi. In my 30’s, I entered the DREAM GP with a vision and got my butt kicked by Eddie Alvarez. I’ve traveled the world and fought in almost every major promotion except Bellator. Now I am in my 40’s and I will challenge the RIZIN GP and my first opponent will be a Bellator fighter.” He added that not only is he motivated to face a well-known fighter from Bellator MMA but also to win the Grand Prix.
“He is going to try to take my head off.” -Kawajiri on drawing Freire in the Gran Prix
Freire admitted he was a fan of Pride Fighting Championships and that he watched Kawajiri fight “from 10 years ago”, adding that he “respects him a lot.” However, with both men being in the fight business, when they face off on October 12 in Japan, both know they have a job to do. “I know he said he respects me and all,” Kawajiri said of Freire’s kind words and added the disclaimer, “but in the ring, he is going to try to take my head off. I’m looking forward to a battle and to survive to make it to New Year’s Eve.”
Here is your full lineup for RIZIN 19:
Featured MMA bouts
Jiri Prochazka vs. Fabio Maldonado
Seo Hee Ham vs. Miyuu Yamamoto
Marcos de Souza vs. Keita Nakamura
Rena Kubota vs. Shawna Ram
Lightweight GP first-round matchups
Tofiq Musaev vs. Damien Brown
Johnny Case vs. Roberto de Souza
Patricky Freire vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
Luiz Gustavo vs. Hiroto Uesako