Kyoji Horiguchi knows that he’s one of the best talents in his weight class today. This time around, he will continue to prove it outside the Octagon.
Many were surprised when Kyoji Horiguchi signed with Japanese promotion RIZIN after his UFC contract expired last February. A perennial contender at in its 125-pounds, Horiguchi left the promotion at the top of the rankings. Losing only once to longtime champ Demetrious Johnson during his eight-fight stint.
At just 26 and still reaching his full potential, the Gunma-native says that it wasn’t a tough decision choosing to fight back home. Although he remains thankful for the opportunity to compete in MMA’s biggest stage, Horiguchi believes that competing in Japan is the best option that he wants for his career at the moment.
“I appreciate what UFC did for me and I still love UFC. However, I am professional fighter and need to fight for my living.” Horiguchi tells Dojo Drifter in an exclusive online interview, who was ranked number-three before his departure. “The ‘status and brand’ (in the UFC) did not concern me to make my decision. I believe I am the one of top contender in the world regardless where I fight for.”
Weeks after striking a multi-fight deal with his new employer, Horiguchi will make his promotional debut this April. He faces former DEEP champion Yuki Motoya in Yokohama. According to him, the contract he signed enables him to be more active unlike in the past year.
“RIZIN guaranteed (me) a minimum number of fights per year as long as I am healthy.” said Horiguchi, who looks to fight often once again after he only fought twice in 2016 – his fewest since making his MMA debut it 2010.
Back to where his career started, Horiguchi will still remain at the American Top Team for his fights which opens the chance for him to return in the UFC in the future. When asked about it, Kyoji doesn’t close his door on that possibility. But for now, he aims to continue showing everyone his worth and eventually become RIZIN’s first flyweight champion.
“At this point, I am focusing in RIZIN and it’s belt.” Kyoji said,
“Who knows who will be the best promotion in the world in few years? RIZIN may become the number one promotion especially my division.”
Photo courtesy of the Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Kyoji Horiguchi talks about reinventing himself at American Top Team
WATCH: UFC Flyweight Kyoji Horiguchi’s post-fight scrum at UFC Rotterdam
Horiguchi unfazed by the emerging contenders in the UFC’s flyweight division