Kyoji Horiguchi had one of the best first six months of 2019 in all of mixed martial arts. After winning the Rizin Fighting Federation bantamweight title in December 2018, Horiguchi added the Bellator bantamweight belt to his collection in June.
Now, though, the Japanese star will end the year with no championships and a lengthy recovery period.
Horiguchi has relinquished his Bellator title due to injury, Bellator announced Wednesday. Rizin had announced last week that Horiguchi was out of the Rizin 20 main event on Dec. 31 following surgery to repair a torn ACL and a damaged meniscus. Horiguchi also gave up his Rizin belt.
In a news release, it was stated that Bellator would look to book a bantamweight title fight in the coming months. Horiguchi will get an immediate title shot upon his return, Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement.
"I feel terrible for Kyoji about the injury he suffered to his knee, but in the true spirit of martial arts and being a true champion, he has elected to vacate his title and allow the division to move forward in his absence," Coker said.
Horiguchi (28-3), who trains in the United States at vaunted American Top Team, is one of the best MMA fighters in the world outside the UFC. The former UFC flyweight title challenger signed with Japan's Rizin as a free agent in 2017, returning to his home country. Horiguchi, 29, then went on a red-hot 10-fight winning streak over two years.
He beat Bellator fighter Darrion Caldwell by third-round submission to win the Rizin bantamweight title in December 2018 and beat Caldwell again, this time by unanimous decision, at Bellator 222 on June 14 at Madison Square Garden to win the Bellator belt. Bellator and Rizin have a talent-sharing agreement.
Kai Asakura snapped Horiguchi's winning streak at Rizin 18 in August via first-round knockout. It was a non-title bout. Horiguchi was scheduled for a big rematch against Asakura for the title at Rizin 20 before the injury. Before falling to Asakura, Horiguchi had not lost since a 2015 UFC flyweight title fight defeat to Demetrious Johnson.