Kyoji Horiguchi is ‘enemy’ at home in Bellator vs Rizin event

Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5, 19 finishes) competes in Saturday’s Bellator MMA cross-promotional event against Rizin FF (8 p.m., Showtime) in an unusual position. Bantamweight champion Rizin represents Bellator as a flyweight against Rizin fighter Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2, seven finishes), against whom Horiguchi is 2-0. Ahead of Japan’s annual New Year’s Eve event at Saitama Super Arena, former Bellator 135-pound champion Horiguchi recently spoke via Zoom with The Post’s Scott Fontana for this week’s Post Fight Interview Q&A.

Q: This will be your third fight of 2022. That’s more than you had the last two years combined. What’s it like to be back on a more active competition schedule?
A: I like [to be] active because, you know, just making money (laughs). It’s my job.

Q: You have been injured over the past few years. Is that why we haven’t seen you so much before this year?
A: Yeah, that’s why.

Q: How does the body feel?
A good feeling. No injury. I am healthy now.

Q: It’s been a long time since you competed at flyweight like you will against Ougikubo. Is this something you hope to do more regularly in the future?
A: Yeah. Of course, I have to lose weight. Usually, I’m a lighter bantamweight, so when I was a bantamweight, I was down to just, maybe, six pounds. Very easy. That’s why I’m losing weight.

Kyoji Horiguchi
Lucas Nounan

Q: How much do you expect to weigh for this flyweight fight when you get in the cage?
A: I am normally 142 years old, [143].

Q: Typical weight between fights?
A: Usually 143, [143].

Q: This event is billed as Bellator vs. Rizin. You are signed to Bellator, but you remain bantamweight champion Rizin. Do you feel like you’re representing both organizations even though it’s kind of presented as the Bellator fighter?
A: I am happy because I am [on the] American side, Bellator side. I am really [feeling a little bit weird] because I have a Rizin belt [but am] also Japanese, but [on the] American side (laughs).

Q: You should always be appreciated in Japan, right?
A: [I’m the] The enemy of the Japanese, right (laughs)?

Q: You have been a champion of both organizations. What are your remaining career goals?
A: I want each organization’s belt. Right now I don’t have the Bellator belt either. So I want revenge [against champion Sergio Pettis]. I will have [the] back belt. So I have to do a lot (laughs).

Q: The Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix final is set and Patchy Mix, the man who defeated you in the tournament, is a finalist. How do you expect the fight to go when he fights Raufeon Stots?
A: I think Patchy [is] going to win because he is long, and also, he has a good technique on the ground.

Q: How do you plan to get back into the championship picture with Pettis and the Grand Prix winner, who will also have the interim bantamweight title? Do you think you need one or two more fights to get back to it?
A: I can fight anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t matter who is [the] opponent.

Q: You fought and defeated Ougikubo twice. How do you judge him as an opponent?
A: He’s a tough fighter, and even [though] I won twice, maybe he [has been] get better [in] this time, so I’m really careful. He is also a striker [has] grappling, so I’m very careful [of] his technique.

Q: New Year’s Eve is traditionally a big night for MMA in your home country, and you’ve done it before. What does it mean to participate in this event, for those who may not understand?
A: It’s going to be like a festival, a Japanese festival. But we fight and also get money. It’s work (laughs).

Q: You are already 13 years old and 35 fights, but you are only 32 years old. Do you feel like you have many more years in MMA, or do you see the end on the horizon?
A: I want to fight [until I’m] 40 years old, maybe. [That’s] my goal, but I don’t know. If I get [an] injury or something, maybe I’ll retire. But my goal is 40.

Q: What was your first experience with MMA?
A: When I was six [or] eight, I watched K-1. I don’t remember what exactly, but I always watched [the] K-1 Grand Prix, just heavyweights back then. …Because my dad, my family loved kickboxing, my dad [was] look, I look too. Then, ‘Oh, I want to be like that’, you know (laughs)?

Q: How old were you when you started trying to get into MMA?
A: When I started karate, [I was] 5 years. The true focus [was] maybe 16, 17; I’m really focused [on] karate and also kickboxing and martial arts.

Q: Favorite meal after the fight?
A: I always go to Japanese barbecues. Always. Also ramen noodles.

Q: What is the coolest technique in combat sports?
A: That’s an easy question. It’s karate, my style. …I like more punch, long distance punch.

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