BELLATOR MMA SWEEPS RIZIN IN HISTORIC FIVE-FIGHT NEW YEAR’S EVENT IN JAPAN

BELLATOR MMA SWEEPS RIZIN IN HISTORIC FIVE-FIGHT NEW YEAR’S EVENT IN JAPAN

SAITAMA SUPER ARENA – All five BELLATOR MMA athletes taking part in the historic BELLATOR vs. RIZIN event in Japan emerged victorious on Saturday night – making history on what is historically MMA’s biggest night of the year.

The mega event will air in the United States on SHOWTIME at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

No. 3-ranked pound-for-pound talent AJ “Mercenary” McKee (20-1) defeated RIZIN Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi de Souza (14-2) via unanimous decision and had this to say following his victory.

 

“I’m just trying to embrace it all. Being here in Japan and fighting in front of all the fans, it’s an experience. It’s an honor to be here and an honor to put on a great show.”

 

On fighting under RIZIN rules: “Man, that was so fun. I don’t know if something I can do every fight but it’s something I enjoyed a lot. RIZIN enjoyed the show so hopefully they bring me back for a title.”

 

“Man, [Roberto de Souza is] a warrior. He’s one tough dude. He kept throwing that triangle. I felt like he was trying to drag me into deep waters and drown me… Luckily, I’m a good swimmer.”

 

“Man, this is about one of the best arenas I’ve fought in. The fans are phenomenal, the culture is phenomenal. I’ve heard so many stories so to finally be here is amazing.”

 

“I’m a warrior, and I’ve returned from battle. What better way to represent this culture. I would’ve gone out like a warrior. If he had caught me in a triangle, I would’ve gone to sleep. That’s just the kind of warrior I am.”

 

“I wanted to put on a great show for you guys to show that I am grateful for the culture.”

 

“I want to go home, go snowboarding. I’ll be back here. I’m gonna come back and pick up more of these [victor’s trophies]. There’s something I really like about the samurai warriors; as fighters, that’s who we are. I want to show my children, this is what I won in Japan. This is who you are. The warrior blood runs through us. You’ve just got to tap into it.”

 

On what it would take for Roberto de Souza to beat him: “When I step into that cage or ring, I feel it is me vs. me. Come train with me? I’m so well-rounded, wherever Im at I continue to prevail. Whether I’m on my back I’m able to fight.”

 

On when he plans to return to Japan again: “New Year’s next year? Why not? Maybe soon. If you call me, I’m here.”

 

“Every fight I tell myself I’m going to knock this person out. It’s just the self believe I have in myself. In my craft, self-belief is the most important thing. He brought a fight. Especially going into a new weight class. 

 

“At the end of the day, it’s not up to me; it’s up to Mr. Coker. They send me a contract, I sign it. That’s my job. It doesn’t matter who it is, where it is, when it is. You give me a call, I’m gonna sign the contract, and I’m gonna do my job.”

 

“It’s always emotional having my father in my corner. I’m not just fighting for myself, I’m fighting for him, my brother. It always makes our father proud and that’s our main goal. Just be the best I can be… He always tells me he’s proud of me, win, lose, or draw.”

 

“Once I noticed we were in the corner of the ring, I wanted to place his body so he couldn’t move. I didn’t feel we were out of the ring.”

In the co-main event, BELLATOR’s current Featherweight World Champion and No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound athlete Patricio Pitbull (35-5) bested RIZIN featherweight kingpin Kleber Koike (31-6-1) via unanimous decision and added these remarks post-fight:

 

“I feel very good. [RIZIN Featherweight Champion Kleber Koike] was a strong opponent.”

 

“It was a very difficult fight, he was defending very well against me.”

 

“I have been PRIDE since when I was a little kid, and RIZIN is the successor to PRIDE, so I’m very happy to be here. Of course, I was very emotional. This is one of my dreams come true, so I was very happy to realize my dream.”

 

“I would like to fight again against Kleber Koike in 2023.”

 

“I thought I could get him [RIZIN Featherweight Champion Kleber Koike] earlier but he was stronger than I thought. I got some kicks to my face. As far as ‘Satoshi,’ I thought he was controlling in the early rounds but AJ took over in round 3.”

 

“I wanted to say thank you to my opponent, Kleber Koike, who is an awesome fighter, and also to [RIZIN President Nobuyuki] Sakakibara for this opportunity.”

 

“There was no title, so next time I would like to put the titles on the line.”

 

“I think he will be one of the top fighters, I never look down on an opponent but I was surprised to see his 29 finishes.”

Former BELLATOR Bantamweight World Champion Kyoji Horiguchi (31-5) defeated Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-7-2) for a third time at the special event, and gave these comments in the post-fight press conference:

On his status as a member of the winning Team BELLATOR, given his past in RIZIN: “I don’t know if I should be enjoying this as much as I am.”

 

“I feel very good, whether in Japan [or not], I like to fight.”

 

“The calf kick was in my game plan.”

 

“He didn’t cut it or anything but after the second one I knew he was hurt.”

 

“I don’t really feel like he was chasing me, or anything. I don’t let that into my mind. So, it wasn’t really something for me.” 

 

On differences between BELLATOR and RIZIN: “I personally don’t put myself and the Japanese behind the US so maybe it’s just technical differences.”

“I always try to fight constantly. If I can get in 3-4 fights a year, that’d be great. Whether it’s in Japan or America, I’d like to get those numbers in.”

 

On a potential fight with John Dodson: “I’ve seen his fight, I think he is a very strong fighter so I think there are opportunities to fight him.”

 

“My manager’s put so much into my schedule that I don’t have free time to go around [this New Year’s Eve].”

 

On going back down to flyweight: “There isn’t much difference. Maybe the size difference.”

 

“I think I’m pretty good at taking my opponents’ back. But, you know, he was trying to defend the whole time, so it was pretty difficult.”

Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta (27-4) defeated Soo Chul Kim (18-7-1) in the lone split decision on the card, and said this about his experience:

 

“I’m feeling very happy, very lucky, and fortunate. I just got in a battle with Soo Chul Kim, and I’m happy to get the victory. 

 

“I knew it was going to be a close fight. Soo Chul Kim is an animal and so am I and that he was going to push the pace.”

 

“I knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I have a lot more respect because I hit him with a lot of hard shots. I kind of hurt my hands a bit because he had such a hard head, and he kept moving forward. I’m kind of surprised.”

 

“It was so amazing [to fight here in Japan on New Year’s Eve]. There is always something you wish you could do more. It’s in my blood and I’m so honored to fight here.”

 

“I am ‘The Spaniard’; my fight name is ‘The Spaniard.’ My father’s side comes from Spain, but on my mom’s side, my family comes from Mexico, from Native Meso-Americans. [My walkout costume paid tribute to] those warriors that represent what the emperor selected; real, true warriors hand-selected by the emperor. Here in RIZIN, I was able to represent the other side of my culture. It’s not only the samurai, it means something to me: the jaguar warrior. I wanted to bring that to your eyes, to show you that there are other warriors. Just like the bushido code in Japan. That was honor, and that was real respect. To pay homage to that was to pay tribute to my Aztec family, and that was the ‘jaguar warrior.’”

 

“I just want to stay active, I want to get back into the ring as soon as possible. I love fighting. I was already hitting mitts with my cornermen after the fight because I was like “what should I have done better?”. We are always critiquing ourselves like “I wish I did this.” Happy with the performance, happy to get the win. Especially against an opponent like Soo Chul Kim, and now come next year, if RIZIN and BELLATOR put on another event, I hope I left [enough of] an impression on the fans and showed my love, respect, and honor for your guys’ culture to have me back.”

 

“I inflicted the first damage; bloodied him up. Then, I started the takedowns. It was slippery. It was my first time in the ring; I tried not to let it get to my head. I knew where I had to take the fight to win the fight. I knew I had to take him to the ground to get control, to establish dominance and cause damage, and that’s what I did. And remember, [RIZIN President Nobuyuki] Sakakibara didn’t bring us here for an easy [Team BELLATOR] win. He’s a former champ. These fights are close; they’re gonna be dogfights for us to win. I had the best of Soo Chul Kim, and he had the very best of me.”

 

“His body shots were pretty damaging. There are marks on my body. He hit me with some good body shots, so anyone with weaker conditioning, he would’ve dropped.”

 

On where he would rank Soo Chul Kim in BELLATOR’s bantamweight division: “Definitely in the Top 6, above the Top 10 that’s for sure. I think he finishes a lot of guys we have in BELLATOR just because of toughness and his grit. It reminded me a lot of my last opponent I fought, Enrique Barzola.”

 

“I definitely would like to come back and fight for the title. I think beating one of RIZIN’s top fighters puts me in title contention. I think Asakura if he wants the challenge. I’m more than willing to take the fight, I’ve offered the fight. If I am able to come back to Japan I will fight anyone who Sakikabara wanted.”

 

“I think their confidence [has been a deciding factor in Team RIZIN’s struggles]. They’re lacking in dictating their offense. With Soo Chul Kim, if he had started his offense a little earlier, he would have had me on the back foot more. I think their confidence is lacking a little more. It is scary though, because you’re crossing the line. Sometimes when you cross the line and get hit, it makes you second guess your next move. I think fighters on both sides were questioning how to cross the line without getting hurt.”

 

Kicking off the must-see event is No. 10-ranked BELLATOR lightweight and former Eagle FC champ Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-2) taking on former DEEP champ Koji Takeda (15-4).

 

“I know. [Khabib Nurmagomedov has been] very helpful for me. This guy supported me for a long time. He’s like my big brother. When he’s with me, it’s a big support. I love this guy.”


On potentially facing RIZIN’s Lightweight Champion after defeating Takeda: “Maybe [I would like to fight the RIZIN champion], yes. Maybe next year, [BELLATOR and I will] come back. I don’t know, but yes, I think [Koji Takeda] is very close to the title.”

Share Article: