At a press conference today, Rizin announced several additions to their December 29 card.
In addition to officially announcing that Shane Carwin will be joining the openweight tournament, Rizin officials also confirmed that UFC veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri will be competing at the same event. A 16-year veteran of the sport, Kawajiri has fought all over the world for promotions including the UFC, Pride, Strikeforce, Dream, K-1, and Shooto, amassing an overall record of 35-10-2.
Earlier this month, Kawajiri asked to be released from his UFC contract, and was granted his request. Speaking at the press conference, he stated that he chose Rizin as his new promotion because he "grew up with Pride and K-1," and wanted to fight again in front of a Japanese crowd.
"I received a letter from UFC on Sept 24th and it got me questioning about what I wanted to do with my future and at a certain point I started to think of fighting elsewhere," Kawajiri said, as translated by the official Rizin translator. "There was a period of time where I didn't know what to aim for, no fights lined up, and I really wanted to fight somewhere where I could be myself. I chose Rizin because I really love Japanese MMA. I grew up with Pride and K-1 and just love fighting in front of the Japanese crowd. But the main reason is because Rizin was the organization where they needed me the most."
For his Rizin debut, Kawajiri has requested a fight with Kron Gracie. Gracie, the son of the legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and MMA pioneer Rickson Gracie, is 3-0 in his MMA career. He most recently defeated Hideo Tokoro by first round submission at the Rizin event in September.
Rizin boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara seemed more than happy to oblige that match-up.
Additionally, Rizin officials announced a bout between Andy Nguyen and Miyu Yamamoto for the December 29 card. Nguyen is currently 3-3 in her MMA career, and will be coming off of a win in King of the Cage. The 42-year-old Yamamoto meanwhile is 0-1, having lost her debut against Rena Kubota in September. A former Olympic athlete hailing from Japan's "royal family" of wrestling (she is the daughter of another Olympian, and the sister of a four-time world champion wrestler and UFC fighter Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto), she will likely be one of the biggest draws on the card, despite her sparse MMA record.
Hideo Tokoro will also return to the promotion, facing off against fellow Rizin veteran Erson Yamamoto. Yamamoto made history in September when he fought on the same card as his mother, the aforementioned Miyu Yamamoto. He won that bout against Kizaemon Saiga via split decision. This will be Tokoro's third fight under the Rizin banner, and his 64th professional MMA bout overall.
Rizin officials also confirmed three more fighters for the event, although none of them have an opponent lined up yet. Kanna Asakura, the 19-year-old KOTC Atomweight Champion will be making her Rizin debut, Kanako Murata will be returning to the promotion following a win over Combate Americas' Kyra Batara, as will Rena Kubota, who most recently spoiled Miyu Yamamoto's MMA debut.
The current Rizin World Grand-Prix 2016: 2nd Round card is as follows:
- Wanderlei Silva vs. Mirko Cro Cop (Tournament Bout)
- Hideo Tokoro vs. Erson Yamamoto
- Andy Nguyen vs. Miyu Yamamoto
- RENA vs. TBD
- Kanna Asakura vs. TBD
- Kanako Murata vs. TBD
Additionally, three more Openweight Grand Prix fights will take place that night, including Shane Carwin's return to MMA.
The event will take place on December 29, broadcast live from the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.