Kyoji Horiguchi is taking new steps forward in his storied career.
It was revealed Thursday to BJPenn.com that the current RIZIN bantamweight champion has joined the Bellator roster. RIZIN, Bellator President Scott Coker, and Horiguchi himself announced the news via social media.
Due to the global pandemic and the fight against COVID-19, RIZIN has been forced to keep its events nearly exclusive to domestic competitors. Horiguchi now spends most of his time in Florida where he trains at American Top Team. Therefore making it much more difficult to go to and from his home country of Japan.
The goal in mind with the news is to allow Horiguchi the freedom to be more active as both promotions continue a healthy working relationship. The plan going forward will be to have Horiguchi back in Japan to fight at least once a year — presumably defending his title.
In addition, Bellator and RIZIN plan to start making Bellator Japan events an annual occurrence along with the continued tradition of cross-promotion.
Kyoji Horiguchi wrote a lengthy message to his fans addressing the news (translated from Japanese for clarity).
“To all who always support me,
“I am currently in Florida at ATT and have been living a life with nothing but training. Right now, due to the COVID pandemic, it has been extremely difficult for me to enter Japan under the right conditions and this is a big matter for me and all fighters living outside of Japan.
“I came to RIZIN in 2017 with ambitions of reviving the Japanese combat sports scene and have shown it in my fights.
“All of your support has given me strength, and even now your support is the motivation for me to keep grinding, so far away from Japan. However, given the situation where I cannot compete constantly is not an ideal situation for me as a professional fighter and I cannot just sit here and wait until things settle.
“I was put in a spot where I had to make a decision and I have reached out to Mr. Sakakibara and Mr. Coker to see what could be done, and I have chosen to sign with Bellator. But I will not be jumping ship, as I will be representing Japan and RIZIN while I take on new challenges in the Bellator cage.
“I will not be able to constantly fight in front of the Japanese fans like I used to, but with Mr. Coker’s understanding and Mr. Sakakibara’s support, I hope to be able to fight in Japan again. My ambitions on reviving the Japanese combat scene is still the same. I will use all my experience and knowledge I have learned in RIZIN, and use your support to do my best in the Bellator division.
“I hope my presence will inspire other Japanese fighters and motivate the young generation to start challenging overseas, I believe this will keep the fire going for the Japanese combat sports community. I have been told that Bellator and RIZIN will be strengthening their relationship and take on new challenges and I am very excited to see what’s coming.
“Lastly, I cannot thank the fans who support me enough. I will take on the world with the pride and dignity as the RIZIN champion! I ask the Japanese fans to continue support to my journey.”
Kyoji Horiguchi (29-3) last fought on New Year’s Eve in his highly anticipated rematch with Kai Asakura. The 30-year old returned for the first time after suffering a torn ACL as well as the massive upset loss to Asakura in their first meeting. Horiguchi reclaimed his crown by TKOing Asakura in the first round.
At the time of Horiguchi’s injury, he was holding both the RIZIN and Bellator bantamweight crowns but was forced to vacate each.