Roberto De Souza returns to the ring to face seasoned veteran, Kazuki Tokudome at Rizin 27 on Sunday. He was born in Brazil but has been based in Japan for nearly a decade.

De Souza is one of the most decorated jiu-jitsu practitioners in the game. He has become a key player in the lightweight division since making his Rizin debut in 2014 and is proud to be representing the Japanese promotion,

“I am very happy at Rizin and I want to make the event grow more and more. (It) is a promotion that makes the event for athletes, they think about their fighters,” he said.

The 31-year-old comes into the bout on the back of a win over Yusuke Yachi at Rizin 22. ‘Satoshi’ was able to put his opponent away inside the first round and finished the fight with ground punches.

Formidable adversary

In Tokudome he faces a formidable adversary. The Japanese veteran has fought for ONE Championship and the UFC and was lightweight King of Pancrase.

And, despite having not fought since 2019, the Tokyo-based Judoka arrives in good form, having won his last two in ONE Championship.

“I want to show that no matter where you come from, Rizin is an event that has athletes to face any other athlete from another event. (It’s) a tough fight, but it doesn’t matter if it’s in the hands or in jiu-jitsu I can win,” said De Souza.

Decorated champion

The Brazilian is confident of getting the job done no matter where the fight goes but did admit that he still has certain areas that need work.

“I competed for a long time in jiu-jitsu championships all over the world, but I have a lot to improve my game for MMA,” he said.

His credentials from the grappling world are impressive to say the least. He was already a four time IBJJF world champion when he was awarded his black belt in 2011 and has won numerous competitions and tournaments in multiple continents.

However he feels he has transitioned from excelling in a single discipline to becoming a well rounded mixed martial artist,

“Today I can say that I am an MMA fighter I have not fought jiu-jitsu for a long time,” he said.

Common opponent

Both Tokudome and De Souza do have something in common; a loss against fellow lightweight, Johnny Case.

For Tokudome, the defeat came during his time in the UFC while De Souza lost to the American in the first round of the lightweight grand prix at Rizin 19.

Dropping the unanimous decision would have been disappointing for the 31-year-old. It was the first and only pro loss of his MMA career, and potentially, a missed opportunity to become a world champion.

De Souza is not dwelling on that defeat and already has his sights on the champion Tofiq Musaev,

“(Case?) Not for now. I want fights that get me to Rizin’s belt. Every fight is a step closer (to Musaev) this year I believe I will be able to get to him.”

Biggest goal

A big win against Tokudome would certainly propel De Souza into the title conversation. Meanwhile, training partner, Kleber Koike Erbst will fight further down the card against fellow featherweight, Kazumasa Majima.

De Souza hopes for a big year for both him and his countryman, describing his biggest goals for 2021 as,

“The belt for me and Kleber later this year and (to) make Rizin grow more.”