The lineup for the Rizin lightweight Grand Prix was released last week and one name in particular stood out. Patricky Freire has been one of Bellator’s top lightweights for the best part of a decade and now he is taking his talents to Japan for this tournament.

The draw will be made next week and Freire will find out exactly who his Rizin 19 opponent is. But he says there is one fighter in the bracket to keep an eye on,

“There are a lot of tough guys in the tournament. There are some guys who are former UFC fighters. But I believe that the toughest guy among them is Tofiq Musayev.”

Historic significance

He’s been on the Bellator roster since 2011 and has more knockouts than any fighter in the promotion’s history. However this will be the 33 year old’s first time in fighting in Asia and he’s well aware of the history Brazilians have competing in Japan,

“I’m very excited and very anxious about this. It’s like I’m doing my international MMA debut all over again. To me, Japan is like another world, another dimension. Because they have very big tradition with fighting. They have that samurai spirit and all the legendary fights we’ve seen in Pride and other shows, so I’m very excited for that.”

He is able to compete due to the link up between the two promotions that has seen Bellator fighters like Darrion Caldwell and John Wayne Parr compete for Rizin while Kyoji Horiguchi and Rena Kubota have headed in the opposite direction.

It’s rare for two major MMA promotions to work together so harmoniously and for Freire the opportunity is a welcome one,

“It’s great, it’s awesome to be able to have some experience and go to places where Bellator hasn’t gone yet. I like that we have this opportunity to jump between promotions and fight under different circumstances and I hope it happens more times.”

Two titles

Horiguchi was able to totally reinvent himself by winning the Rizin title and the Bellator title. It was an achievement that most UFC champions will never have the opportunity to emulate and ignited a fierce debate about exactly where the Japanese fighter stood in the bantamweight rankings.

It’s an achievement that Freire is well aware of and one he would love to replicate,

“With the opportunity that Bellator and Rizin give me, my most immediate goal is to do what Horiguchi did! I want to win the Rizin title and then win the Bellator title after.”

Freire has already identified the biggest threat in the bracket. But there is one man he wouldn’t mind fighting,

“There is a guy that has been asking a lot to fight against me. His name is Damien Brown and I think that it would be a good fight for me. Easy fight, easy money!”