Kyoji Horiguchi Confident He Can Hang With Best UFC Bantamweights

Kyoji Horiguchi
Fernando Quiles Jr., MMA News

Former UFC flyweight title contender Kyoji Horiguchi has another high-profile bout set for this weekend’s (Fri., June 14, 2019) Bellator 222 from New York City.

The current Rizin FF bantamweight champ will take on Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell for the promotion’s 135-pound title. The two have history, as Horiguchi submitted Caldwell to win the Rizin 135-pound belt last December. Although he mainly fights in Japan, Horiguchi’s contract states that should he win the bantamweight title, he must defend it at least once a year.

Ready To Represent Japanese MMA

But the surging champion isn’t setting his sights on just that goal, even if it is a great one. Horiguchi met up with MMA News’ Fernando Quiles Jr. at the Bellator 222 open workouts today to discuss his career path. First, Horiguchi was asked if he felt he was defending Rizin’s honor at Bellator 222. Speaking through a translator, he said he indeed was:

“I do. I definitely feel I’m representing Japan and Rizin. And my performance affects the future growth of Japanese MMA.”

An interesting point from Horiguchi, who is no doubt one of the few bonafide stars attempting to inject some life back into the once-great sect of Japanese MMA. Horiguchi moved on to discuss his previous success against Caldwell last year. He told Quiles Jr. how he was able to tap out the Bellator champion:

“I’ve studied his footage, previous footage, and he has been submitted by a guillotine before. So I practiced that often, I thought there would be an opening, so I practiced it.”

New Challenges Await Horiguchi

Horiguchi then detailed his view that he would be facing a much better version of Caldwell at Bellator 222. He believed Caldwell was out of his element in their first fight. With the rematch taking place in the United States, he expects a different Caldwell to show up:

“Yeah, of course. I think that he’s going to be a different person. His first fight in Japan, fighting outside of the country, he’s not used to fighting in the ring. And also, he didn’t look like he was in the greatest condition. So I do assume that I’m going to go in there and think that I’ll be facing a different fighter from the first fight.”

The bantamweight division is buzzing in MMA right now with Henry Cejudo recently becoming a double champ by finishing Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 last weekend. Caldwell recently said he could give Cejudo problems, and that was pointed out to Horiguchi.

Asked how he would stack up against Cejudo, Moraes, and other top UFC 135-pound talents like Aljamain Sterling, Horiguchi said he can absolutely compete with them. For now, however, it was time to focus on the task at hand:

“I’m pretty sure I can hang with any of them. So, first of all, I want to get over this fight first and think about the rest later.”

You can watch Horiguchi’s full interview with MMA News here: