Kyoji Horiguchi sounded emotional as he discussed his return to Japan at Rizin 40. The 32 year old will be representing Bellator and realizes that fight fans in his homeland might not be impressed by his decision to sign an exclusive deal with the American promotion.
Relations between Rizin and Bellator remain cordial. The two organizations are working together to put on an event on New Year’s Eve but the manner of Horiguchi’s departure must have rankled in Japan.
He fought out his Rizin contract and signed an exclusive deal with Bellator. Ahead of his fight with Hiromasa Ougikubo on New Year’s Eve the 32 year old admitted that this has probably upset the Japanese fans,
“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.”
THE TRILOGY IS ON‼️
— RIZIN FF English (@rizin_English) October 26, 2022
Since signing that exclusive deal with Bellator he has remained winless in the America. Horiguchi has been beaten by Sergio Pettis at Bellator 272 and Patchy Mix at Bellator 279 and it feels like a long time since he was the bantamweight champion with both promotions.
Horiguchi has already beaten Ougikubo twice. He submitted him in 2018 with a rear naked choke to become the Shooto bantamweight champion, his first ever title.
They rematched at Rizin 11 in 2018 and once again Horiguchi emerged victorious although this time the fight did go the distance. Ougikubo did beat Naoki Inoue and Kai Asakura in a single night last New Year’s Eve to win the bantamweight Grand Prix.
The RIZIN Bantamweight Champion and top Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world @kyoji1012 continued his reign when he defeated @Hiromasa0401 #OnThisDay in 2018!#RIZIN #MMA #RIZINFF #RIZIN11 pic.twitter.com/1Hp1RdTJuJ
— RIZIN FF English (@rizin_English) July 29, 2021
But a decision loss to Soo Chul Kim at Rizin 38 recently suggested that the 35 year old might struggle to maintain this stellar form. Having already beaten Ougikubo twice Horiguchi sounds extremely confident heading into the third fight,
“My opponent will be Hiromasa Ougikubo. This is going to be our third fight, and I’ll make sure he’ll never want to fight me ever again.”
It won’t be Horiguchi’s first time fighting in Japan since he signed that exclusive deal with Bellator. He submitted Yuto Hokamura in the second round and there wasn’t any hostility from the fans although he is clearly concerned that won’t be the case at Rizin 40.