Kyoji Horiguchi reveals he’s a free agent, hopes to fight Bellator champ Sergio Pettis

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Kyoji Horiguchi says he has entered free agency.

Horiguchi (29-3), who reclaimed the Rizin bantamweight title by avenging his loss to Kai Asakura with a first-round TKO, hasn’t competed since December 2020. The 30-year-old Japanese star revealed that he is now considering his options for his next career move but is yet to decide.

“I’m a free agent right now,” Horiguchi said on American Top Team’s “Punchin’ In” podcast.

Horiguchi became a simultaneous two-promotion champion in 2019 when he defeated Darrion Caldwell twice to win the Rizin FF and Bellator bantamweight titles. He then was upset by Asakura in a non-title bout and was forced to miss time because of a knee injury, which prompted him to relinquish both titles. After regaining his Rizin title, it appears Horiguchi is looking to get his Bellator belt back too.

When asked, regardless of promotion, who he’d like to fight next, Horiguchi said reigning Bellator 135-pound champion Sergio Pettis (21-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA).

“Maybe Pettis because I want to return back the belt,” Horiguchi said. “That’s why Pettis.”

Bellator president Scott Coker previously expressed interest in working with Horiguchi again, claiming that he “owed” the promotion a fight after relinquishing the title. Perhaps cross-promoting wouldn’t be necessary for that to come to fruition if Horiguchi decides to sign with Bellator.

Horiguchi’s manager, Dan Lambert, didn’t reveal Horiguchi’s next move but did hint at Bellator having interest in him.

“Kyoji’s an interesting fighter because he’s very popular in Japan, which is why he left the UFC,” Lambert said. “You left the UFC, and you had won like four or five fights in a row when your contract expired, but they offered you significantly more money to fight in Japan. The Japanese promotions like having Japanese stars. In the heyday of PRIDE, it was built around Japanese fighters and bringing in people from different countries, kind of like us against the world.

“But you have to start with successful Japanese stars. So you’ve been in Rizin for quite a while now, Rizin cross-promoted with Bellator, which is how he was able to fight Caldwell over in Rizin, defended your title there. You won that fight, so you had another fight for his title in Bellator, won that title prior to getting hurt. So there’s a lot of interest in Kyoji from Bellator, staying in Rizin, UFC’s always looking for the best fighters in the world, so I think Kyoji is probably gonna make a decision soon.”