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Kyoji Horiguchi. He is consistently cited as one of the best fighters outside of the UFC, and rightfully so. Horiguchi, since departing from the UFC to stake his claim in RIZIN, has been near invincible. Since leaving, Horiguchi has gone 10-1, and one loss to Tenshin Nasukawa in a kickboxing match. That one MMA loss, a knockout loss to Kai Asakura, is the lone blemish on the Japanese superstar’s resume. Horiguchi was originally supposed to get revenge in December 2019 until he blew out his ACL. Now back, over a year later, Horiguchi looks to get back to his winning ways, get the win back over Asakura and show the world that he’s the best bantamweight in the world.
Going into RIZIN 26, the main question about Kyoji Horiguchi is the knee and how he’s rehabbed. Horiguchi says while the path back has not been easy, he is back to full health and fans can expect him to be at full fighting capacity come New Year’s Eve.
“I’m about 100% recovered. I had to start from zero after the surgery and built back the muscles that have gotten weak. But the hard work and long rehab has paid off and I am back.”
Starting in mixed martial arts has been a lifelong journey for Horiguchi. Starting at the age of five, he’s been preparing for what he is today for his entire life. It was Pride and K-1 that really hooked Horiguchi and set him on his journey of becoming a professional fighter.
“I started going to a karate dojo that my older brother was going to at the age of 5. I grew up watching Pride and K-1 as a teenager, looking to become a fighter one day. I was inspired by Kid Yamamoto, a small figure knocking out opponents much bigger than himself, and joined the Krazy Bee Gym after graduating high school.”
Kyoji Horiguchi and Kai Asakura | RIZIN 26
As mentioned earlier, Horiguchi has had much success in RIZIN. 10-1 since joining the promotion and historically capturing the Bellator bantamweight belt in a cross promotional fight, Horiguchi can be considered one of the faces of RIZIN. Fighting for the promotion has been a blessing and Horiguchi has felt more at home in RIZIN than anywhere else he’s fought.
He says, “RIZIN has that show aspect that makes everything much more entertaining.”
Since coming to RIZIN, Horiguchi has found his home at bantamweight and moved on from the 125 weight cut he was doing in the UFC. While he believes that this is part of his success in the RIZIN ring, Horiguchi says it isn’t the complete story. Kyoji Horiguchi also believes he’s naturally progressed as a mixed martial artist as well.
“I think weight definitely has something to do with it, but my overall skills have risen and that too has shown in my performances.”
As for the injury, while it’s not ideal, Kyoji Horiguchi used that time off to think positively. He sees his year long layoff as a time to rehab old, nagging injuries and he feels he is coming into RIZIN 26 relieved of all those and looks to put on a fantastic fight.
“I think the time off offered me good things. I had injuries besides my right knee and I used this time off to heal all parts of my body.”
So what are we expecting from Horiguchi at RIZIN 26? Horiguchi say we will be getting a statement. Not that he’s the best, or better than Kai Asakura for that matter. While a win is obviously the goal, Kyoji Horiguchi looks to chip away at the common thought that an ACL injury is the end of an athlete’s career. He feels that with science and medical breakthroughs, those days are behind us and we will see a Kyoji Horiguchi that is even better than pre-ACL injury Horiguchi.
“Many people think that tearing an ACL ends an athlete’s career, but I want to show you that people can come back from these big injuries.”
RIZIN 26 takes place on New Year’s Eve and fans can catch an English broadcast on LiveNOW, available for pre-purchase here. Follow Kyoji Horiguchi on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to follow his fight week journey.