Who’s Next for Kyoji Horiguchi, After Bellator Signing?

Kyoji-Horiguchi
SAITAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 31: Kyoji Horiguchi celebrates the win during the RIZIN. 14 at Saitama Super Arena on December 31, 2018 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

He is a former one-time contender of the UFC, RIZIN Bantamweight Champion, and former Bellator Bantamweight Champion. Who is next for the top bantamweight Kyoji Horiguchi? The Japanese-born fighter will be competing in Bellator with an annual fight in RIZIN as well.

Kyoji Horiguchi Signs to Bellator

With news that Kyoji Horiguchi had become a free agent recently, Bellator MMA had wasted no time in signing their former champion. In June of 2019, Horiguchi had earned himself the Bellator Bantamweight championship when he defeated Darrion Caldwell, an American wrestling-based fighter. In November of 2019 Horiguchi voluntarily vacated this due to a severe ACL injury.

“I feel terrible for Kyoji Horiguchi about the injury he suffered to his knee, but in the true spirit of martial arts and being a true champion, he has elected to vacate his title and allow the division to move forward in his absence.” Scott Coker, Bellator President, said in 2019, and continued:

“After fully healing, we plan to give Kyoji an immediate title shot.”

Now in late 2021, the Bellator Bantamweight division has moved forward. On a winning streak against Alfred Khashakyan, Ricky Bandejas, and Juan Archuleta, their current reigning champion Sergio Pettis has no fights scheduled currently. “The Phenom” Sergio Pettis, 28 years old, won the championship earlier in 2021.

Is the next fight to make Sergio Pettis vs Kyoji Horiguchi? It would make sense given that Horiguchi is the former champion who had never lost his title in a fight. It would make a great storyline and headline fight. It would also tie up the lineal Bantamweight title into the actual Bantamweight title. Plus, and most importantly, it would make a great fight. Pettis is a kickboxing and Muay Thai based striker while Horiguchi is a karate and boxing-based striker. It would make for a very fun style match-up.

Another potential great fights for Horiguchi in Bellator would be the winner of Patchy Mix vs James Gallagher, at Bellator 270. Both fighters are currently on winning streaks in the bantamweight division and are ranked in the top 10.

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SAITAMA, JAPAN – DECEMBER 31: Kyoji Horiguchi of Japan celebrates the victory in the bout between Kyoji Horiguchi of Japan and Darrion Caldwell of Unites Stateys during the RIZIN. 14 at Saitama Super Arena on December 31, 2018 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Kyoji Horiguchi in RIZIN

In Japan, Kyoji Horiguchi was beginning to carve a name for himself. He had won the RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix, and the RIZIN Bantamweight Championship. In the Japanese-based organization RIZIN Horiguchi had gone 10-1 in MMA, his only loss later avenged. He even headlined in a kickboxing bout against their multi-time kickboxing champion Tenshin Nasukawa. 

In RIZIN Horiguchi will have one bout annually. This is likely due to Horiguchi having defeated most of the division already with wins over Kai Asakura, Ben Nguyen, Hiromasa Ougikubo, Hideo Tokoro, and many others. Horiguchi will likely have an annual bout on the New Year’s Eve event against a special opponent, whether it be the champion or someone from another division.

This does not reflect greatly on RIZIN though. In the past two years RIZIN has put on great kickboxing and MMA fights, and amazing events, however, they’ve lost their biggest MMA star in Kyoji Horiguchi to Bellator, plus reigning champions Manel Kape and Jiří Procházka to the UFC.

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MONTREAL, QC – APRIL 25: (L-R) Opponents Demetrious Johnson of the United States and Kyoji Horiguchi of Japan face off before their UFC flyweight championship bout during the UFC 186 event at the Bell Centre on April 25, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Kyoji Horiguchi and the UFC

In the UFC Kyoji Horiguchi only had one loss. This lone loss was to a peak Demetrious Johnson in a 2015 Flyweight title match. Johnson would have 11 title defenses before moving to ONE Championship. Horiguchi in the UFC would go 7-1 and was on 3 fight win streak when he left the organization.

“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.” Horiguchi’s translator said in 2018. Horiguchi also added:

“I only regret one thing about leaving the UFC and it’s that I didn’t rematch [Demetrious Johnson]. If they gave me a rematch I would’ve stayed—no questions”

Both Johnson and Horiguchi had left the UFC and the Flyweight division has moved on, the landscape looks much different. Today, the reigning champion is a Mexican inspiration story in Brandon Moreno. Previous to Moreno the title was held by a notoriously violent Deiveson Figueiredo. At top of this division also stands the Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja, and the undefeated Russian wrestling wrecking-ball in Askar Askarov. Combining Kyoji Horiguchi into this division would have been electric and had the potential for fireworks.

Kyoji Horiguchi’s next fight will likely be for the Bellator title against Pettis; this would be a great match-up. An annual fight in Japan under RIZIN will keep this fighter busy enough. However, both the UFC and ONE Championship have great and developing divisions that Horiguchi could have much success in. As a fan of Kyoji Horiguchi, I hope to see him competing soon and competing healthily. And in a few years, I hope to see him covered in even more MMA gold.

 Feature Image Credit:

Embed from Getty Images

 

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