#RIZIN14 - DEC 31
RIZIN vs. Bellator
Champion vs. Champion
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Darrion Caldwell pic.twitter.com/8FmRkuq3yw — RIZIN FF (@RIZINFF) November 29, 2018
The New Year’s Eve showdown pitting Darrion Caldwell against Kyoji Horiguchi could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cross-promotional bouts between Bellator MMA and Rizin Fighting Federation.
"I do think Rizin and Bellator will work multiple times together next year," Bellator president Scott Coker told ESPN.com. "I think it could lead to a big event where it would be 'Rizin vs. Bellator' in Japan or over here, next year. I think you'll see that type of collaboration.”
Caldwell and Horiguchi will vie for Rizin’s vacant 135-pound belt on Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan as part of an event that is also expected to include an exhibition boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Tenshin Nasukawa. Caldwell’s Bellator title will not be on the line.
However, if Caldwell defeats Horiguchi to become Rizin champion, Coker says “The Wolf” would be expected to defend that crown on at least a somewhat regular basis. The Bellator head and Rizin president Nobuyuki Sakakibara both agreed to that during negotiations for cross promotional events.
"We each had to make sure we were protected on the back side," Coker said. "If Darrion Caldwell wins the Rizin belt, at least once a year, we'll send 'DC' to Japan to defend that belt, because it's not fair to them to put their championship on the line and if he wins -- sorry, you don't have it anymore.
"Nobuyuki Sakakibara and I got on the same page. If Horiguchi comes here and wins, then he's a two-belt champion, and once a year Sakakibara will send Horiguchi to Bellator to defend that belt against the next title contender. That was important to both of us.”
According to Coker, the relationship with Rizin works because both organizations know that Caldwell vs. Horiguchi is more than just a one-off fight.
"People are going to be excited about having our champs fight their champs. It makes a lot of sense. That door is always open. We have to have a relationship where each promoter knows the relationship will continue past one event. If those hurdles are managed properly, events like this can happen, which is very exciting for the sport.”