Quotes From Today’s Virtual Press Conference Featuring the Stars of the Historic BELLATOR VS. RIZIN Co-Promotion

 BELLATOR vs. RIZIN fighters spoke with assembled media today ahead of the historic New Year’s Eve event, which features a star-studded lineup stacked with current and former champions. The mega event takes place at the world-famous Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on Saturday, Dec. 31 and will air in the United States on SHOWTIME at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

No. 3-ranked pound-for-pound talent AJ “Mercenary” McKee (19-1) takes on RIZIN Lightweight Champion Roberto Satoshi de Souza (14-1), while BELLATOR’s current Featherweight World Champion and No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound athlete Patricio Pitbull (34-5) takes on RIZIN featherweight kingpin Kleber Koike (31-5-1).

Former BELLATOR Bantamweight World Champions Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) and Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta (26-4) square up with Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2) and Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1) respectively. Kicking off the must-see event is No. 10-ranked BELLATOR lightweight and former Eagle FC champ Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4) taking on former DEEP champ Koji Takeda (15-3).

Here is what the BELLATOR MMA vs. RIZIN fighters had to say:

AJ MCKEE

“I’m ready man, this is like a dream come true. I’m happy to be here. I’ve been embracing it all. I’m embracing the fans, the culture and the people. I’m ready to put on a great show.”

“He’s good, I feel he hasn’t fought anybody of my caliber yet so I’m looking forward to bringing the fight and pushing the pace.”

“It’s going to be a fun fight, it’s going to be an exciting fight. It’s going to be a fight where I think the people are going to love it, I think I’m going to love it. It’s a ring so for me it’s going to be a bit different. For this fight in particular I’m not too worried about it.”

“For me it’s an honor man just because my father fought out here 10 years ago so me feeling like I’m his revenge for his legacy in the fight game, its just time for the McKee’s to get the respect and recognition they deserve, that’s my whole goal in life and in mixed martial arts.”

On cornering Zion Clark

“It’s just phenomenal to see somebody who puts in the work. He has so many records and just the will to will through things. It feels phenomenal to be a part of that greatness. He works hard, he comes into the gym and doesn’t make any excuses. That’s his motto, “no excuses.” Being a part of something that great of that magnitude was phenomenal.”

“He just told me embrace it. I’ve seen Rampage here and my father, so the culture is different here. The respect for the fight game is different. I got to fight during COVID so the no crowd is what I’m anticipating a little bit. It’s going to be a really big advantage to my game to have my dad in the corner being able to hear him any time.”

“For me, I’ve always felt that I’m the money fight. I bring good fights, entertaining fights so with that being said, it’s an honor. I’ve always talked about cross promotions and champions versus champion to see who the best of the best is so for myself this is just an opportunity for me to go out and show the world why I’m the best in the world and I appreciate RIZIN for the opportunity.”

“There’s nothing in the talks, but me personally obviously, one and one with Patricio that’s legacy. It’s not about the money, it’s not about anything else. That’s something that needs to be settled. So, 2023 that’s the fight that’s in the making. We got a newly crowned champ at 155, Usman Nurmagomedov. That’s my stomping ground now so if Patricio doesn’t step up, that’s the fight I’m looking forward to.

“I think my father taught me wrestling just based of the principle. It teaches discipline. At a young age you learn how to cut weight, you learn how to have your priorities in check, you go to practice everyday, you look forward to it and it just teaches a different discipline.”

PATRICIO PITBULL

“I feel great. It’s been two weeks since I’ve flown in so no more jet lag and I’m ready for the fight.”

“He’s got a strong finish, so he’s been doing very well in RIZIN so I’m looking forward to the match.”

On how the fight will go

“I’ll just be the winner.”

“In my debut, I was training these rules so I’m looking forward to kicking some heads on the ground.”

“He’s a jiu-jitsu guy and he’ll try everything to put me on the ground and finish me, so we’ll see maybe I finish him.”

On brother Patricky Pitbull’s latest fight

“That night he didn’t fight like he typically fights, he didn’t fight like he traditionally fights. And he’ll be back and when he faces this guy it’ll be a different result and show the world how Patricky fights.”

“It’s cross promotion, BELLATOR vs. RIZIN, champion vs. champion.”

“The most difficult part was to do the cross promotion and they were able to establish that. I would have liked to see some sort of a unification of the belts or maybe create a new title.”

“When he fought here I was jealous and I was just waiting for my time, and now It’s a dream come true and I’m very happy.”

“Everyone in Brazil used to watch PRIDE and is very aware of RIZIN because they are very similar and that’s the intention because we feel that RIZIN is a great place to fight. The intention is to have more of the Pitbull brothers represented here in Japan and the Pitbull Brother team is very excited about that.”

When asked what he wants the Pitbull Brothers to be remembered as

“The Pitbull brothers were always doubted, and they always proved people wrong.”

KYOJI HORIGUCHI

“I feel very good, I just need to drop a few more pounds and I’ll be ready,” Horiguchi said. “I think he is a total fighter. He is becoming more a complete fighter. I have a gameplan whether I am standing or I am on the ground, I’ll be able to fight and execute.”

Regarding his travel to Japan from Florida

“I’ve gotten used to it, so I don’t feel any stress.”

“I don’t worry about that at all, I don’t worry about what other people say about me.”

“I haven’t talked to them about the ring at all but they are professional, and they should be able to know how to use the ropes so I am not worry about that at all.”

On BELLATOR opening a flyweight division

“I would like to have a discussion with him [Scott Coker] after this fight.”

“I think he has improved his skills since our last fight, but I think I should be able to control him in every aspect in the fight,” Horiguchi said. “I just need to control the match and if I do, I should be able to finish the match.”

On life after fighting

“After I retire, I will pass on my skills to the children coming up.”

“First, I wish to win my match, and then I hope we can sweep all the matches.”

“Even though I’ve won twice before. I think he has imagined me since then, and of course I have imagined him also, but I also have weaknesses, but I would like to threaten his weaknesses.”

On coming back down to flyweight

“You know what, its fine. I’ll do whatever I need to do, it’s my job.”

JUAN ARCHULETA

“Currently I feel great. I’m so excited to be here in Japan. It’s almost like a dream come true. I have to pinch myself to wake up every morning.”

“I’m very excited because we have similar styles. We both come to the center of ring and were going to give the fans and the audience a very exciting performance. We’re both going to go out there and look for the kill and see who’s soul breaks first.”

“The image I have the match that I’ve painted in my head over and over is a war. A literal war. This guy comes forward and has a very aggressive offense and so do I and that makes a very entertaining fight because when you have two fighters, two warriors who want to come in to do battle on a battlefield that is known to have great battles, you’re in for an exciting treat. We’re going to come and continue to push forward and push offense until one man’s will breaks the others.”

“It’s one thing making history and being on a card that’s fighting promotion against promotion, BELLATOR vs. RIZIN, then it’s a whole other stage when you bring it to RIZIN on New Year’s Eve where MMA has first started here in Japan and to be able to cement my name to the legacy books and the history books to say ‘Juan Archuleta came and took away the show that was made for certain fighters but everyone remembered Soo Chul Kim and Juan Archuleta’s fight overall’ that’s what we’re pushing for.”

“That’s why I’m here. That’s why I want to come here and fight different fighters from all over the world is because I’m like the jaguar, I’ll go in and create chaos, and then I’ll come back out and still control the situation and then again create chaos and then again control the situation. I thrive in chaos; I pride in being able to be in that fight. I hope this guy brings something new to me and that he’s going to come forward and create offense for my offense because you’re going to see these two agile cats go at it.”

“This whole event got set up because we got hand selected. You got fighters that Scott Coker out of his whole roster selected five fighters that he knew could come to any fighting arena and fight with anyone’s rules thrown at them. We are hand selected by the emperor. This goes back to my ancestors’ days where there were certain warriors that were selected to go out after tribes to capture humans and make human sacrifices, those were called jaguar warriors. That’s what I feel like right now. Hand selected by the emperor to go out and catch an opponent for him, capture someone’s soul and bring it to his table. That’s what’s going to happen. I got to be fast, I got to be agile. Doesn’t matter the terrain, it doesn’t matter who I’m performing in front of, I have a job a to do and that’s to capture this guy’s soul. So I’m going to put on the uniform to go out there and perform for my organization and that’s BELLATOR.”

“Listen I’m willing to go to the deepest depths of hell to get a victory and that’s dragging him with me. I know where my conditioning is, I know how hard I push my body, I know where I can take myself mentally, physically, and spiritually to get a victory. I don’t think he does, I don’t think he understands why I train so hard, why I wake up day in and day out to be so diligent in my work that is shows in my performances. I’m going to drag him with me and I’m going to pull him down as much as I can down to hell and if I have to go with him to get this victory I will.”

“Fighting is an expression, it’s a way of life. You don’t choose to be a fighter, it chooses you. Every day I was surrounded by fighting. Every day I was training to fight. Fighting is a way of life for me.”

ROBERTO DE SOUZA

“I’m very happy. I’m looking forward to the fight. Of course, I’m a little bit nervous but I look forward to the fight.”

“I think he is a dangerous fighter but that is about it. He is from BELLATOR so of course he was chosen.”

“Like I always say, I won’t be waiting for a decision. I will finish the match.”

“I know it’s going to be a difficult fight. It may be one of the most difficult fights of my career, but I’ve trained hard for this match, and I will get a win and raise the name of RIZIN around the world.”

“I always have so many plans going into matches but those do not become real when the match starts. This time I’ve been practicing my striking skills a lot.”

On his training camp

“The biggest thing I’ve learned was to have confidence in yourself.”

On potential grappling match with Gordan Ryan

“Of course, Gordan Ryan is a king. Now I think he is about 100 kilos so he will need to lose 20 kilos and I would have to gain 20 kilos to fight.”

On rematching AJ McKee in BELLATOR

“I like the idea. Actually, my first professional fight was in a cage.”

“Of course, I feel nervous, a little bit of pressure. I’ve been practicing to fight in this match.”

“Even if I don’t have the championship, I will always look at myself like a champion.”

“As far as having a new family you know I’m very happy and it’s going to be a big motivation for me, and it will definitely help me in the match. Also learning about my father and his father, watching him and his father being close is very inspiring. Of course, I don’t have my father with me but that will also help my inspiration in trying to fight this match.”

“Thinking Khabib might be watching this match is very interesting for me because he is like the king. Also, regarding the possibility to my next fight with Usman is something I don’t think right now, I’m just focused on the match I have in two days and if I win, I’d like to show the high level of the Japanese MMA.”

“I’m always looking up to stronger opponents. Times where I think “I don’t want this match” are the ones I want.”

“Of course, he has fought in lightweight once. Watching his featherweight matches I’ve seen that he is very physically strong and finishes his opponents. He wasn’t able to finish his last lightweight match, so we’ll see what kind of lightweight he is after this match.”

KLEBER KOIKE

“[I’m] feeling a little bit nervous, but I feel great.”

“I think [Patricio Pitbull] is a good fighter, but other than that, it’s just going to be a normal fight.”

“I also think it’s going to be a difficult fight; not an easy fight. We both have strong motivations in money, so we’ll see who’s going to win.”

“Of course, BELLATOR is a very known organization in the US, and Patricio a champion there. But I am also famous in Asia and Europe. I will be known in some parts of the world and not others.”

When asked on what he would do if he was not a fighter: “I only have plan A.”

“I am fighting for my living, and also living to fight.”

“I hope this is the same as my previous matches. I know he is strong on the ground as well.”

“All matches are important to me of course but I always think the next match will be the most important match. Patricio is one of the strongest pound-for-pound, so it is very important.”

“Sometimes you need to get outside of your comfort zone to improve, and for me, that was getting out of Japan.”

“I know it’s not a title match, but it’s definitely an important match. I need to represent RIZIN very well, so that’s my focus.”

“I also like to fight this match for ‘Satoshi’ [Roberto de Souza] also. After I won the title, he advised me to take some time off, but on the other end, he’s given me good energy every time. He’s a good friend, he’s a brother; a mentor, so I would like to also fight to fight this match for Satoshi.”

# # #

BELLATOR MMA VS. RIZIN MAIN CARD:

SHOWTIME

Saturday, December 31 — 8 PM ET/PT 

Lightweight Non-Title Main EventAJ McKee (19-1) vs. Roberto de Souza (14-1)

Featherweight Non-Title Main Event: Patricio Pitbull (34-5) vs. Kleber Koike (31-5-1)

Flyweight Feature Bout: Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2)

Bantamweight Feature Bout: Juan Archuleta (26-4) vs. Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4-2) vs. Koji Takeda (15-3)