Kyoji Horiguchi could have signed a new contract with the UFC and tried to work his way back up the ladder in the flyweight division.
But instead, the 19-fight veteran decided returning to Japan and competing for Rizin was the right career move at this time.
Horiguchi (19-2) puts his four-fight win streak on the line Saturday in the main event of Rizin World Grand Prix 2017 Opening Round Part 1 against Hideo Tokoro.
“In addition to Mr. (Nobuyuki) Sakakibara treating me very well, I started to feel it might be a good option for me to fight in my home country again in front of my friends, fans, and my Karate master,” Horiguchi told MMA Today. “They also have a TV deal with Fuji TV, one of the biggest broadcasting stations in Japan, that can raise my name recognition.”
Horiguchi won his first four fights inside the Octagon to secure a shot at Demetrious Johnson in 2015. He went to late in the fifth round with “Mighty Mouse” before getting caught in an armbar.
The 26-year-old got right back in the win column to later that year, defeating Chico Camus and following it up with wins over Neil Seery and Ali Bagautinov. However, once his contract expired, he opted to sign with Rizin and defeated Yuki Motoya this past April.
“He guaranteed me at least three fights a year. You got to remember I fought only four times in the last two years (for the UFC), plus the UFC contract was just not good enough,” he stated about the reasoning behind the switch,” he said. “I don’t feel anything special because the pressure is always there no matter who I fight. There are no haters either, I don’t think. Maybe?
“Honestly, I am very happy to be that position. I’m very comfortable with a target on my back.”