Bellator MMA and RIZIN will stage a historical event this New Year’s Eve (Jan. 31, 2022) that will see five of each promotion’s best battle one another in a one-night spectacle inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Headlining the event will be a Lightweight bout pitting A.J. McKee against RIZIN champion, Roberto de Souza, in a non-title fight. In the co-main event, Bellator’s Featherweight king, Patricio Pitbull, will battle champion, Kleber Koike.
For Scott Coker, while the road to getting this event organized wasn’t easy, it’s something he has been eying for some time now.
“This is a relationship that started in 2004, 2005. It’s been many years of working together. It’s been a friendship and a relationship that has led to these fights taking place,” Coker told MMA Mania and other media members during a recent conference call. “It’s not always easy; there have been bumps along the way to get to this. I’m extremely happy about what we’ve been able to do with this event. We’re ready to go.”
Initially, Coker wasn’t thinking about sending many of his top fighters over to “The Land of the Rising Sun” to compete but changed his tune at the request of RIZIN FF president, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who asked for the best.
“When we first started talking about this event, I really was thinking OK maybe we could send a couple of our top guys, a couple of our B-level guys, a couple of our C-level guys, and bring a very mixed team. Sakakibara was the one who said no bring all your best guys, we want to fight all your top fighters and I was surprised.”
According to the Bellator MMA president, the two sides agreed to hold two such events, with the other one going down sometime in 2023 in the United States under Bellator’s MMA rule set.
“Sakakibara and I talked about two events. The next one has to be in the cage, and it has to be Bellator rules. It would be different. Whether in the US, or somewhere else. I think Hawaii would be fun. I just want to get through this one on the 31st, and then we can go from there.”
While many promotions have refused to partner up to stage events such as this one for the risk of hurting the brand and the brand of the fighters, Coker says the best fighting the best is the true martial arts way, even if the outcome doesn’t favor his company or fighters.
“Working with other promoters there has to be a certain amount of trust and what are they bringing to the table. I think really the question is what is the relationship going to look like moving forward and what fighters are they going to want to fight,” he added.
“You are putting your fighters in harm’s way, you’re putting your brand in harm’s way and that’s OK because that should be the martial arts way.”
Rounding out the rest of the main card will be Juan Archuleta taking on Soo Chul Kim at Bantamweight, Tatsuya Kawajiri battling Hiromasa Ougikubo at Flyweight, and Gadzhi Rabadanov taking on Koji Takeda.
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