Kyoji Horiguchi has been competing at bantamweight since leaving the UFC in 2016. He has won both the Rizin and Bellator 135lbs titles and beaten the likes of Kai Asakura, Darrion Caldwell and Manel Kape.

But Horiguchi lost back to back fights for Bellator at the start of the year and no longer has a belt to his name. He will be dropping back down to 125lbs for his next fight which is set for New Year’s Eve when he takes on Hiromasa Ougikubo.

Despite his remarkable accomplishments as a bantamweight Horiguchi feels that 125lbs is a much better for for him,

“I always thought my true division was flyweight. I was pushing myself to fight at bantamweight.”

Mentally tougher

Horiguchi has beaten Ougikubo twice and during the second fight he feels he made him quit. His opponent was bruised and battered and just went into survival mode,

“I went for the finish but he kept defending,” he recalls.

But since then Ougikubo has gone on to win the Rizin bantamweight Grand Prix, beating both Naoki Inoue and Kai Asakura in a single night. It was a remarkable achievement and Horiguchi feels his opponent is mentally stronger now,

“Ougikubo has always been a good fighter and has has got mentally tougher, he doesn’t back down anymore.”

Full time

Horiguchi is based full time in Florida and trains at American Top Team. He thinks this gives him an advantage over opponents who are at camps in Japan,

“There are fight every weekend over here. They watch everything and find new tchniques. Mike Brown come up wth new techniues and teaches us to test which ones are useful and which aren’t,” he explained.

He thinks this openness to new ideas is what puts American fighters ahead of their Japanese counterparts,

“They are studying every day. Its not like that in Japan, I don’t think there’s a single coach that does that which is why Japanese MMA is behind in terms of technique.”

It sounds like Horiguchi has been watching the World Cup. He thinks MMA has the potential to be more popular than football and hopes he can help Rizin to reach more mainstream fans,

“I think our sport has more appeal than soccer, it;s just about how to show it.”