Roberto de Souza was born in Brazil but has spent his entire career competing in Japan. The reigning Rizin lightweight champion is well aware that there is a combat sport world beyond the country’s borders and has always wanted to test himself against opponents from the west.

He is taking on former Bellator featherweight champion AJ McKee at Rizin 40 on New Year’s Eve. For de Sousa this is like a dream come true,

“It’s really happening, it’s like I’m dreaming,” he told Rizin confessions.


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Former opponent

This is not the first time that there has been a crossover promotion between Bellator and Rizin. The prospect of facing opponents from the American promotion has been on de Souza’s radar for a while and he is proud to be representing the Japanese organization,

“I’ve always wanted to fight Bellator fighters. I want to dight the worlds best but most of all I want to protect the Rizin name and belt.”

To prepare for this contest he has enlisted the help of former opponent Johnny Case. The two have fought twice and the American remains the only fighter to have ever beaten de Souza.

The Brazilian prevailed in the rematch at Rizin 35 but thinks Case, who also has a bout booked at Rizin 40, is the perfect training partner because he has, ‘similar size, similar background to AJ McKee’.

It sounds like the two men have been studying McKee closely and de Souza thinks Case is superior in some aspects,

“He’s about as tall as Johnny case but Johnny has better punches. McKee likes to kick a lot and once he’s comfortable he will use his hands.”


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Making notes

McKee won the Bellator featherweight title by stopping de Souza’s compatriot Patricio Freire in the first round. He hurt the Brazilian with a left head kick before finishing him with a standing guillotine choke.

It sounds like de Souza watched that fight and was making notes,

“He’s got that karate style, a southpaw who loads up on all his left attacks. He comes out strong in the first round (so) I need to be careful in the first three minutes.”

But while de Souza has been preparing specifically for McKee he is also very confident in his own skillset. The Brazilian is one of the best submission artists in the division and says he one chance will be all he needs to finish the fight,

“Just give me one opportunity and I will get the submission.”