Hiromasa Ougikubo has had his sights set on a trilogy bout with Kyoji Horiguchi ever since his second loss to the former Rizin and Bellator bantamweight champion. The pair will go head-to-head for a third time on New Year’s Eve, a date that has real significance for the 35 year old.
It was on December 31st last year that he beat both Naoki Inoue and Kai Asakura to win the Rizin bantamweight Grand Prix. No-one expected Ougikubo to win that night and he is the underdog again against Horiguchi.
The fight is set for flyweight with Rizin set to launch a 125lbs division. Ougikubo wants to usher in a new era with a bang,
“I want Rizin to have the best flyweight division in the world and Horiguchi and me will kick it off by making the division’s first fight a great fight,” he said.
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Ougikubo dropped a decision to former ONE Championship bantamweight champion Soo Chul Kim last time out. But it does not appear to have dented his confidence as he prepares to fight at flyweight for the first time since 2019,
“I could become the UFC champion at flyweight (but) I want Rizin to have the world’s best flyweight division, where fighters come to be the world’s best. That is my last job,” he said.
Ougikubo started competing four years before Horiguchi but was soon overtaken despite this head start. In 2013 he lost his Shooto bantamweight title to the Takasaki native and feels he has been chasing him ever since,
“Horiguchi started fighting after me but before I knew it, I was the one chasing him,” Ougikubo said.
The styles that the 2 have developed throughout the years have made this matchup more intriguing and the fact that Horiguchi doesn’t rely on his speed as much works as a favor for Ougikubo. We hope to see determination and the spirit of never giving up coming to fruition. pic.twitter.com/8wDMmGbVGG
— RIZIN FF English (@rizin_English) December 18, 2022
While he was submitted in the opening round of the first fight the rematch played out differently. Horiguchi put a beating on Ougikubo who was merely trying to make it to the final bell at Rizin 11.
It is not a memory the 35 year old is particularly proud of,
“Sometimes I think that I’m not fit to be a fighter when weakness like that shows. What was most disappointing was that both fights I couldn’t be aggressive. I was just trying not to get finished.”
Ougikubo admits he contemplated retirement after the second loss to Horiguchi,
“After the second fight I nearly quit, it was mortifying. I believe ( I can beat him) that’s why I continued fighting.”
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Horiguchi returned to winning ways at Rizin 38 after back to back losses with Bellator. He submitted Yuto Hokamura in the second round of their bantamweight bout.
When Ougikubo was offered the trilogy match with Horiguchi he had absolutely no hesitation in accepting,
“My manager called and asked if I wanted to fight Horiguchi at flyweight. He’s been my goal all these years,” he said.
Ougikubo admits that his opponent has improved. The odds seem stacked against him, just as they did 12 months ago, but the veteran says he has ‘a feeling’ that fight fans might be in for a surprise,
“Watching Horiguchi fight after some time I think he has got better (but) I have a feeling I’m going to win this one.”