One of the biggest free agents in MMA has made his way to Bellator.
Current RIZIN bantamweight champion and former Bellator bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi announced Wednesday that he would be vacating his bantamweight strap and would be testing free agency for the first time since leaving the UFC in 2017. However, it seems he didn’t have to search for a new home for long.
Bellator President Scott Coker announced Thursday night that the promotion has officially signed a deal to bring Horiguchi into the organization. Horiguchi is technically a former Bellator bantamweight champion despite never being with the promotion. As part of a cross-promotion between Bellator and RIZIN in 2019, then-RIZIN champion Horiguchi defeated Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell to win the bantamweight title.
Horiguchi however would have to vacate the Bellator and RIZIN bantamweight titles following an ACL tear after his upset loss to Kai Asakura later that year at RIZIN 18. Horiguchi would have to rehab for the next 15 months but would make his return at RIZIN 26 to defeat Asakura in a rematch via knockout, to reclaim his bantamweight title.
In a bit of a twist, Coker would later clarify to ESPN, that because of the working plan with RIZIN and Bellator, Horiguchi would not have to vacate his bantamweight championship with them and that he could fight for both promotions.
Horiguchi (29-3) is considered one of the best bantamweights on the planet and for good reason. The former UFC title challenger has done nothing but wreck competition across the globe since leaving the promotion in 2017, defeating names such as the aforementioned Darrion Caldwell, Ian McCall, and Manel Kape, among others. He is now being thrown into an insane Bellator bantamweight division, where he will have to contend with the likes of Raufeon Stots, Juan Archuleta, Patchy Mix, and Magomed Magomedov just to name a few of the fighters at 135.
That’s not even including the new champ Sergio Pettis who captured the bantamweight championship earlier this year.