Bellator MMA and RIZIN are teaming up once again to stage a co-promotion event on Sat., July 30, 2023, inside the famed Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
During a recent joint press conference, officials announced that former Featherweight champion, A.J. McKee, will face ex-Lightweight champion, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, in a 155-pound Grand Prix quarterfinal bout. McKee is coming off a win over RIZIN champion Roberto de Souza at Bellator x RIZIN 1 in Dec. 2022, his second straight win. McKee now has his sights set on winning his second $1 million Grand Prix, as well as his second title in as many divisions.
As for “Pitbull,” he coughed up his Lightweight title to Usman Nurmagomedov at Bellator 288 in Nov. 2022, bringing his record to just 1-3 over his last four fights. Now, the Brazilian bomber will attempt to make a run at a potential rematch against Nurmagomedov while joining brother, Patricio Pitbull, as the only two men to defeat “Mercenary.”
The winner of this fight will face Alexandr Shabliy in the semifinals.
In the co-main event, Kyoji Horiguchi will face Makoto “Shinryu” Takahashi in the inaugural Bellator Flyweight title fight. It was recently revealed that the promotion had plans to add the 125-pound division to the mix and wasted little time in booking the first-ever title fight.
Horiguchi — the former RIZIN Bantamweight champion — is coming off his third win over Hiromasa Ougikubo at Bellator x RIZIN 1, his second straight victory. As for Takahashi — the No. 1 ranked Flyweight in Japan — he is 16-1-1 overall and will be riding a 10-fight win streak into his title fight.
Unlike the first co-promotion event, the second venture will have a different angle with the Bellator fights taking place inside a cage and under the unified MMA rules, while the RIZIN bouts will go down inside a ring under the promotion’s rules, which allow kicks to the head and knees to the head of grounded opponents.
That said, there will be a couple of Bellator stars fighting on the RIZIN portion of the event, including former Bantamweight champion, Juan Archuleta, who will face former RIZIN champion, Kai Asakura, for RIZIN’s vacant 135-pound title. Tofiq Musayev is also scheduled to compete under RIZIN’s rules, though no opponent has been named for him at this time.
And you know that no event taking place in “The Land of the Rising Sun” would be complete without a fire poster:
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