Earlier today it was announced that Darrion Caldwell would be facing Kyoji Horiguchi at Rizin 14 on December 31st. The news raised a few eyebrows as the American is the reigning Bellator bantamweight champion and has an exclusive contract with the American promotion.

It is not the first time a Bellator fighter has traveled to Japan to compete for Rizin and Caldwell will be following in the footsteps of Fedor Emelianenko, Mo Lawal and Hisaki Kato. However this will be the first time that a fighter on the Bellator roster has been offered the opportunity to challenge for a Rizin title.

Series of Events

Rizin FF President Nobuyuki Sakakibara hopes to hold a series of events pitting his champions against the Bellator title holders:

“I am very grateful and honored that Bellator and Scott Coker would send us their unarguable bantamweight champion to fight for Rizin’s first-ever world title fight. This title fight will be a true champion vs. champion to determine the world’s best bantamweight fighter. We hope this kind gesture will kick off of a series of exciting matchups between both promotions in 2019. My dream would be that eventually we can co-promote a mega event in both countries with a ‘Champion Carnival’ taking place where stories and rivalries can be built and told,” he said.

Collaboration to continue

Bellator president Scott Coker confirmed that the collaboration between the two promotions would continue in 2019:

“Working for the Japanese fight company K-1 was a magical time during my promotional career and I have always felt strongly that MMA in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ would rise again. It truly is amazing to see what Nobuyuki Sakakibara has been able to do thus far with Rizin FF, so when 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. Bellator wants to support Rizin, and by sending our bantamweight champion to compete during their New Year’s Eve event, we look forward to this leading towards more collaboration between the two promotions in 2019. I want to wish Darrion luck in his quest to prove he is the best 135lbs fighter on the planet,” he said.

Rizin 14 will be headlined by a boxing exhibition bout between Floyd Mayweather and Tenshin Nasukawa. The card will also feature an atomweight title fight pitting Kanna Asakura against Ayaka Hamasaki.