UFC, Pride and Dream veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri will square off against Gabriel Leite de Oliveira on Oct. 15 for a wildcard spot in Rizin’s bantamweight grand prix at the end of the year.
The Japanese promotion announced the bout on Friday. The event takes place at Marine Messe Fukuoka, in Fukouka, Japan, and will feature three bouts in the opening round of the men’s 135-pound bracket as well as the beginning of a women’s super atomweight (108-pound) tournament.
Kawajiri vs. Oliveira will be contested at a 138-pound catch-weight, and the winner will be entered into the bantamweight grand prix as a wild card for the next round on Dec. 29. The victor will have to make 135 pounds for that contest. Both Kawajiri and Oliveira are natural featherweights.
“Kawajiri sent me a picture in July, during the madness of putting together the event. I thought that he just wanted to bug me about getting on the October event, but the picture was him standing on a scale at [138 pounds], and he told me he wanted in on the bantamweight tournament,” RIZIN General Manager Nobuhiko Takada said in a release. “He usually walks around at [165 pounds] and he dropped all this weight just to tell me he wanted to get in the tournament. This moment, I knew the determination of Kawajiri, and I had to consider putting him in the tournament.”
Kawajiri ended a three-fight skid with a decision triumph over Anthony Birchak at Rizin 5 on April 16. The 39-year-old known as “Crusher” went 3-4 during a brief stint in the UFC that included triumphs over Jason Knight and Dennis Siver.
“The only reason why I am doing this, is because I want [Kyoji] Horiguchi. If he wasn’t in this tournament, I would never go through all of this pain to just make weight,” Kawajiri said. “I want to put everything I have, everything I have worked for, in this tournament to fight the icon of Japan’s young, promising generation.”
Oliveira, a 27-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro, enters the matchup with a 9-0 record and has captured featherweight titles in multiple promotions.