One-time Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title challenger Kyoji Horiguchi came up short in his bid to become the first Japanese UFC divisional ruler when he was submitted by 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson, but it was far from the end of his title dreams.
In what is believed to be an unprecedented move in modern UFC times, Horiguchi (16-2) has left everything he knows and loves behind in the Land of the Rising Sun to make a permanent move to the United States.
Many Japanese fighters have visited teams around the world and lived temporarily abroad, but Horiguchi may be the first to make such a commitment to his craft. The 25-year-old is living in South Florida and has joined American Top Team.
“I am happy to hear Kyoji's decision and I am fully supportive of him to get the UFC title,” said Krazy Bee founder and Horiguchi’s mentor, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.
Horiguchi’s handler and manager, Fumihiko Ishii, compared the fighter’s move to the path of baseball legend Hideo Nomo, who became the first Japanese player to permanently relocate to Major League Baseball in the 1990s. Nomo tasted great success as a starting pitcher early in his U.S. career, and eventually opened the door for other Japanese players to make a similar move.
“I, too, am an immigrant from Japan, and have experienced how tough it is to change your lifestyle,” said Ishii, whose INFY Entertainment represents Horiguchi. “I respect Kyoji's decision and commitment to his career, as well as ‘Kid’ for being a great person that truly cares about his student’s career.”
Despite his involvement and partnership with San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy, Ishii cited ATT as the ideal home for his client due to South Florida’s lower cost of living and collection of talent at lower weight divisions. Also, the region is famous for its fishing locales, which is a true passion for Horiguchi.
The Takasaki, Japan, native last saw action in a unanimous decision victory against Chico Camus on Sept. 26.