Tatsuya Kawajiri, one of the most highly regarded lighter weight fighters in the world, will next compete inside the UFC's octagon.
The Japanese featherweight, who most recently fought for DREAM in December 2012, has signed a deal with the UFC, sources close to the situation told MMAjunkie.com. While no first fight has been set, sources said Kawajiri hopes to make his UFC debut in January in Singapore.
The UFC has not yet announced Kawajiri's signing.
Kawajiri (32-7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has fought outside of Asia just once – a 2011 Strikeforce loss to Gilbert Melendez for the now-defunct promotion's lightweight title. That fight resulted in a first-round TKO loss in San Diego.
Since then, Kawajiri has won five straight fights for DREAM, as well as ONE FC, with four coming by stoppage. In 2011, after the loss to Melendez, he stopped Drew Fickett with punches and submitted Joachim Hansen and Kazuyuki Miyata.
The 35-year-old is a former Shooto champion who also fought for PRIDE, where he lost to Melendez for the first time in December 2006.
In PRIDE, Kawajiri was submitted by Takanori Gomi in the 2005 lightweight grand prix quarterfinals in a fight that went down in that promotion's history as one of its best ever.
In DREAM, Kawajiri had much success, but fell short of the pinnacle for that promotion, as well. In 2008, he was stopped by Eddie Alvarez in the semifinals of the lightweight grand prix. And in 2010, he was submitted by Shinya Aoki going after his lightweight title.
But some of the names in the win column on Kawajiri's resume are highly regarded fighters like Josh Thomson, who in December challenges Anthony Pettis for the UFC's lightweight title, Gesias Cavalcante and Yves Edwards.