EXCLUSIVE | Kyoji Horiguchi shares his reasons for leaving the UFC—and one of them is beautiful

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto protege and current American Top Team staple Kyoji Horiguchi has long stood out as one of the best flyweights on earth. In late 2016, however, the one-time UFC flyweight title challenger left the UFC, and set up shop under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner in his native Japan.

Since his departure from the UFC, Horiguchi has enjoyed tremendous success, racking up 5-straight wins and winning the Rizin Bantamweight Grand Prix. Needless to say, the move from the UFC cage to the Rizin ring seems to have been a fruitful one, and on the latest episode of BJ Penn Radio, he reiterated his reasons for making that move.

One of the main reasons for Horiguchi’s move, of course, was money. Rizin offered him more frequent fights, better pay, and more freedom when it comes to sponsorship.

“If we look at the UFC at that time, Kyoji could have two fights a year,”  Horiguchi’s translator said on the show. “[In Rizin] they only have four or five shows a year, but [they] said that they could commit to use Kyoji for all of those events. So think about it. Two fights in UFC versus four fights in Rizin. He did more than four fights last year.”

“The offer [itself] was good, but also the number of fights. If you look at the [big picture], it’s much easier for us to promote Kyoji, and also easier to get the sponsorship because sponsorship was also limited in UFC.”

This, however, is not the only reason Horiguchi moved to the Japanese promotion. As he has mentioned briefly in the past, he wanted to be able to fight in front of his ailing karate master.

“Kyoji would like to add one more comment about his decision why he left UFC and join Rizin back in Japan,” his translator said. “One of reasons he decided, not 100%, but one of the reasons why he decided to go back to Japan was because his master, his karate master, Mister [Hirou] Nihei, got cancer, and he’s fighting cancer. So that’s the other reason why Kyoji decided to go back to Japan, to fight in Japan in front of him.”

Kyoji Horiguchi’s next fight goes down on May 6, when he will will battle a fellow former UFC title challenger in Ian McCall.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/29/2018.