Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN: Khabib Nurmagomedov Set As Team Bellator Captain, More Fights Announced

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov, UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2022 Credit: Alex Behunin/Cageside Press

Former UFC lightweight champion and current coach/Eagle FC promoter Khabib Nurmagomedov will serve as captain for Team Bellator when the promotion goes head-to-head with RIZIN Fighting Federation on New Year’s Eve.

The cross-promotion billed as Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN also doubles as RIZIN 40, and the Japanese promotion announced Nurmagomedov’s involvement in a press release issued on Wednesday. Additionally, RIZIN officials revealed three previously unreported match-ups for what is shaping up to be a promising fight card:

Tsuyoshi Sudario vs. Junior Tafa — heavyweight
Naoki Inoue vs. Kenta Takizawa — Bantamweight
Yuki Motoya vs. Rogerio Bontorin — Bantamweight

UFC alum Bontorin (16-4, 2NC) will be making his RIZIN debut in his fight with Yuki Motoya (32-10, 1NC). Bontorin has not competed since his exit from the UFC, which saw him struggle to make the flyweight limit, pulling out of a fight with Manel Kape in June due to weight cutting issues.

Bontorin was cut a short time later. The Brazilian missed weight for a 2021 fight with Matt Schnell, the result of which was overturned to a No Contest when Bontorin failed a drug test.

Junior Tafa (2-0), the younger brother of UFC heavyweight Justin Tafa, will have Mark Hunt in his corner when he makes his promotional debut against Tsuyoshi Sudario (6-1), who has spent his entire career with RIZIN. UFC vet Naoki Inoue (17-3), finally, meets Kenta Takizawa (13-8) in a fight originally scheduled for July.

Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN takes place on December 31, 2022 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, located just outside Tokyo. The following match-ups (not to mention Khabib Nurmagomedov’s involvement) have been announced for the event thus far:

  • A.J. McKee vs. Roberto de Souza
  • Patricio Pitbull vs. Kleber Koike
  • Juan Archuleta vs. Soo Chul Kim
  • Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo
  • Gadzhi Rabadanov vs. Koji Takeda
  • Tsuyoshi Sudario vs. Junior Tafa
  • Naoki Inoue vs. Kenta Takizawa
  • Yuki Motoya vs. Rogerio Bontorin