The Japanese MMA organization RIZIN has teamed up with Bellator for co-promoted events multiple times, but with the PFL’s 2023 purchase of Bellator, co-promoting could be a thing of the past.
PFL founder Donn Davis has expressed interest on the subject of working with RIZIN in the future. However, the president of the organization, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, is hesitant to jump right into business with the newly formed co-leading MMA organization.
“[Co-promoting] was all possible because of the relationship that we’ve had with Scott Coker,” Sakakibara said, referring to the former head of Bellator. “And this relationship has not been developed within just one or two years – this goes way back of working together and the trust and relationship that we’ve had. That’s the only reason why we could make this happen.
“When two promoters get together and think like, ‘What can we do for the future of this sport? We just can’t have our guys under contract, in an exclusive contract, and not let them fight outside because the fans want to see who’s the best fighter.’ And if promoters with the same open mind can work together like that, we can make these things happen. When two promoters get together and start thinking about what the best move is for the future of our sport, we can do that kind of stuff.”
-RIZING President Nobuyuki Sakakibara
Bellator and RIZIN first joined forces on New Year’s Eve 2022 at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. Following the success of the NYE co-promotion, Bellator went back to Japan once again in July 2023.
RIZIN will once again this year host an evening of fights for New Year’s Eve, but due to the recent changes in the MMA landscape, Bellator will not be a part of the event.
With the news of ONE Championship hosting an event in Japan in January, Sakakibara also discussed the current state of MMA in the country. Additionally, he expressed that he sees other promotions bringing their product to Japan as a good thing overall.
“We don’t look at ONE coming to Japan and doing a show as a threat at all,” Sakakibara said. “We actually think it’s a good thing, you know? As a promoter, we’re actually interested to see what kind of atmosphere, what kind of product they’re gonna bring and cater to the Japanese fans.
“We actually want the UFC to come and do their thing and just kind of bring their show to Japan, because that only helps the Japanese fans, it only helps grow and educate the Japanese fans with combat sports content. Right now, we’re the only ones doing big events, and there’s nothing to compare it with. We always believe that healthy competition is necessary in every market, so I really do want the Japanese fans to be able to experience different kind of promotions and different kind of productions and atmospheres while staying in Japan. We think it’s a really good thing, actually.”