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Kyoji Horiguchi signs with Bellator, remains RIZIN bantamweight champion

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Horiguchi will be fighting in both promotions. 

Kyoji Horiguchi following his win at RIZIN 14.
Kyoji Horiguchi following his win at RIZIN 14.
Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

One of the best bantamweight fighters in the world has signed with Bellator.

Kyoji Horiguchi appeared on an episode of the American Top Team podcast Punchin’ In earlier this week and revealed he completed his contract with RIZIN FF and entered free agency. Horiguchi expressed interest in signing with Bellator to compete in its bantamweight division and set his sights on a potential fight with current reigning champion, Sergio Pettis.

The former Bellator and current RIZIN FF champion was not a free agent for long as he and Bellator president Scott Coker announced on Thursday evening that Horiguchi signed with the promotion. The relationship with fighter and promotion began when Horiguchi won the inaugural RIZIN bantamweight championship against then-Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell in a cross-promotional fight at RIZIN 14. He then earned the Bellator bantamweight championship against Caldwell just six months later at Bellator 222. It was never defended because Horiguchi suffered an ACL tear in his knee, which forced him to relinquish both the Bellator and RIZIN FF championships.

Horiguchi underwent surgery and returned to competition following a 15-month layoff at RIZIN 26, where he reclaimed the bantamweight championship with a first-round technical knockout of Kai Asakura in a highly anticipated rematch. Asakura previously stunned the world with a 68-second knockout of Horiguchi at RIZIN 18.

Although he said he relinquished the RIZIN championship after the completion of his contract, Horiguchi will actually remain the bantamweight champion. Bellator and RIZIN have agreed to continue their cross-promotional relationship, which allows Horiguchi to compete under both banners and will see him return to Japan on occasion.

Horiguchi has had a very successful run in RIZIN thus far. Since joining the Japanese-based promotion after leaving the UFC several years ago, Horiguchi has amassed a record of 10-1, with wins over Manel Kape, Shintaro Ishiwatari and Ian McCall among some of his highlights.