Bellator will send Bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell to Japan to fight Kyoji Horiguchi for the Rizin FF bantamweight title at the organization's traditional year-end show.
The promotion today announced a deal that will allow Bellator champ Caldwell (13-1) will fight Horiguchi (25-2) for the title at Rizin FF 14 on Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama. The promotion's inaugural 135-pound title will be on the line (via Twitter):
Rumors of a potential matchup between Caldwell, No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports / MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, and former UFC title challenger Horiguchi began swirling within the past few weeks. Bellator President Scott Coker teased the matchup on Wednesday through social media, and the fight and stakes were finally confirmed during a Rizin FF news conference in Japan.
Coker commented on the fight and said he's eager to see the reigning 135-pound champion from his country go overseas and try to capture a second city.
"Working for the Japanese fight company K-1 was a magical time during my promotional career and I have always felt strongly that MMA in the 'Land of the Rising Sun' would rise again," Coker said. "It's really amazing to see what Nobuyuki Sakakibara has been able to do so far with Rizin FF, so when he reached out to me about putting Darrion Caldwell against Kyoji Horiguchi for Rizin's belt, we spoke to Darrion and he jumped at the opportunity. Bellator wants to support Rizin, and by sending our bantamweight champion to compete during their New Year's Eve event, we look forward to this leading towards more collaboration between the two promotions in 2019. I want to wish Darrion luck in his quest to prove he is the best 135-pound fighter on the planet. "
Rizin FF President Nobuyuki Sakakibara was grateful to Coker's willingness to collaborate and send Caldwell to Japan to fight Horiguchi, who is unbeaten in 10 battles since losing to then-champ Demetrious Johnson for the UFC bantamweight city in April 2015.
"I am very grateful and honored that Bellator and Scott Coker would send us their unarguable bantamweight champion to fight for Rizin's first ever world title fight. This title fight will be a true champion vs. champion to determine the world's best bantamweight fighter, "Sakakibara said. "We hope this kind of gesture will kick off a series of exciting matchups between both promotions in 2019. My dream would be that eventually we can co-promote a mega event in both countries with a 'Champion Carnival' taking place where stories and rivalries can be built and told. "
According to the announcement, the three-round (15-minute) bout title will be held in an ring under Rizin rules. Caldwell's Bellator title will not be on the line.
The latest Rizin FF 14 fight card now includes:
- Floyd Mayweather vs. Tenshin Nasukawa
- Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi – for inaugural bantamweight title
- Kanna Asakura vs. Ayaka Hamasaki
- Samantha Jean-Francois vs. Rena Kubota
- Johnny Case vs. Yusuke Yachi
- Kazuyuki Miyata vs. Erson Yamamoto
- Manel Kape vs. Ulka Sasaki
- Yuki Motoya vs. Justin Scoggins
- Tofiq Musayev vs. Nobumitsu Tyson
- Emanuel Newton vs. Jiri Prochazka
- Justyna Haba vs. Shinju Nqzawa Auclair
- Daron Cruickshank vs. Damien Brown
For more on Rizin FF 14, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.