On July 30, the #RIZIN Fighting World Grand Prix 2017 will begin with round one of the bantamweight tournament taking place at the Saitama Super Arena.
One man, deep into his preparations over at American Top Team in Florida, is #KyojiHoriguchi. The Japanese fighter has fought at flyweight since 2014 but is no stranger to fighting at 135-pounds having started his career off fighting at the weight.
With his first RIZIN win now under his belt after a win against Yuki Motoya, Horiguchi spoke to Champions.co about his RIZIN debut and the tournament ahead.
“I was very relaxed, even during the fight and I believe I was able to show everyone that I’m a well-rounded mixed martial artist,” Horiguchi said via a translator. “I was happy that I was able to dominate the fight from start to finish, but I was a little disappointed that I didn’t finish the fight. When you dominate 100-percent, you should really get the finish. It was good to get my first win and I’m now looking forward to what is next.”
Reflecting on his time in the UFC now, Horiguchi said it helped him become a better fighter, but that he didn’t get anything like the promotion he can now get fighting in RIZIN.
“I learned a lot from my time in UFC and I don’t regret it at all,” Horiguchi said. “However, to make success in my career as a professional fighter, I know it requires not only fighting knowledge and technique, but also the fame. Fighting in RIZIN, in Japan, it will give me a much bigger opportunity to promote myself. I will be on the top broadcasting company in Japan “FUJI TV” and I can only get that type of exposure with RIZIN. RIZIN treat me very well and I really appreciate it. Everything is well organised and managed very smoothly. I’m very happy here.”
With the bantamweight tournament on the horizon, Horiguchi only has eyes for one thing—taking home the gold and adding yet another prestigious title to his collection.
“I have to fight a weight class above what I normally do, so this won’t be easy,” Horiguchi said. “I’m preparing to be in fights with stronger, bigger opponents. It does not worry me though; we are doing martial arts and we should be prepared for all scenarios and all opponents. I’m confident that I will win this tournament. I know if I fight my hardest I will conquer.”
Horiguchi’s campaign in the tournament will begin with his first-round fight on July 30 against Hideo Tokoro. With 65 professional fights on his 34-29-2 record, Tokoro could well prove to be a tough first hurdle and Horiguchi is not underestimating him.
“I think Tokoro is a great fighter to watch,” Horiguchi said. “He’s always moving, he never stops and he’s always being aggressive and looking for a chance to finish the fight. I know he’s one of those fighters who you really cannot afford to make any mistake against. It will be a great match-up, not only for me but also good for fans as I think it will be an exciting fight. My camp is great as usual and I am seriously preparing to finish the fight. I’ve not had a finish now for nearly three years, I think I’m overdue one.”
While some fans are delighted to see Horiguchi back fighting in Japan, others are disappointed the UFC did not do more to keep him. Horiguchi seemingly holds no grudges and is happy with the way things have played out in his career so far.
“I have a multi-fight contract which lasts for two years,” Horiguchi said. “At this moment, yes, I’m enjoying myself more than when I was in the UFC, however, my goal is always to become the best in the world and nobody knows in next few years who will become the best MMA promotion in the world to fight for. It could be RIZIN, UFC, Bellator or even a new promotion—we don’t know. I only regret one thing about leaving the UFC and it’s that I didn’t rematch Demetrious Johnson. If they gave me a rematch I would’ve stayed—no questions. I’m confident I can beat him now. I’m a totally different fighter because after I lost to him in April 2015 I joined American Top Team and I’m a much better fighter now.”
All thoughts of the UFC and facing Johnson again are out of Horiguchi’s mind for now. The Japanese fighter is solely focused on the upcoming tournament in RIZIN and providing entertainment for the fans.
“Now is the time I prove to everyone how good I am,” Horiguchi said. “I’m going to continue to show exciting fights to all of the fans in the world and I hope they get behind me support me. I’m focused on the win.”
Horiguchi vs. Tokoro goes down on July 30 at RIZIN Fighting World Grand Prix 2017: 1st Round.