Recently Bellator announced that the promotion’s bantamweight champ, Caldwell, will throw down with Horiguchi on December 31st for Rizin’s inaugural 135 title. The official announcement from Bellator included the statements below:
“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. It truly is amazing to see what Nobuyuki Sakakibara has been able to do thus 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 President Scott Coker said. “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.”
“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,” Rizin FF President Nobuyuki Sakakibara said. “We hope this kind gesture will kick off of 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.”
Caldwell (13-1) is currently riding a four-fight winning streak, and he’s coming off a knockout win over featherweight Noad Lahat.
Horiguchi (25-2), meanwhile, has won 10 straight MMA bouts and seven of those have been under the Rizin banner, following his UFC exit in 2016.
So, this is an outstanding addition to Rizin’s NYE card in Saitama, Japan, and it will certainly be interesting to see what other cross-promotion bouts we see in 2019.
Here is the line-up to date for Rizin 14 (via MMA Junkie). The card will be streamed by FITE.TV here in North America.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Tenshin Nasukawa (exhibition boxing match)
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