Bellator president Scott Coker said this is something he wanted to make happen when doing media for Bellator 208 back in October. The day before the press conference he hinted at the announcement on Twitter by asking, “are wolves native to Japan?” Coker issued the challenge to Rizin Chairman Nobuyuki Sakakibara when toying with the idea saying, “Sakakibara if you want to get it on, let’s do it.”
Rizin Fighting Federation confirmed during their latest Rizin 14 press conference that their champion Kyoji Horiguchi would face Bellator’s bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell for the inaugural Rizin bantamweight championship at Rizin 14 on Monday, Dec. 31 from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
It seems Sakakibara does want to get it on and in a press release from Bellator, Coker said, “he reached out to me about putting Darrion Caldwell against Kyoji Horiguchi for Rizin’s belt, we spoke to Darrion and he jumped at the opportunity.” The fight will be three-round (15-minute) Rizin FF world championship bout which will be held in a ring under Rizin’s unique rule set. The victor of Caldwell vs. Horiguchi will leave Japan’s historic combat sports venue a Rizin FF champion. Caldwell’s Bellator bantamweight title will not be on the line in the contest according to Bellator’s press release.
This seems to be the first step into expanding the Bellator brand in Japan, where he knows Fedor Emelianenko had a strong fan-base from the days of Pride Fighting Championships.
The event marks the rarity of one promotional champion in MMA facing another and in the past, fighters from Bellator have fought on Rizin cards before. This news comes the same year as the first trade in MMA happened between the UFC and ONE Championships that saw Ben Askren finally get in the UFC while Demetrious Johnson finds new opportunities at ONE Championships.
It seems the landscape of MMA could be changing in 2019