“I feel like the title in general is on the line,” Pettis, who on Dec. 3 headlines Bellator 272 against Horiguchi, told MMA Fighting. “He didn’t really get a chance to defend his Bellator belt – he hurt his knee and had to vacate it.
“I think this is a fight where it’s really going to show who has the real championship in my division.”
There’s no rematch clause Pettis is aware of if he’s successful against Horiguchi, and the bantamweight title current held by the Rizin FF champ isn’t up for grabs when they clash. If Pettis gets the chance, however, he considers the Rizin belt a “legendary” piece to his MMA legacy.
Pettis’ older brother, former UFC champ and PFL fighter Anthony Pettis, once knocked out Joe Lauzon in hallowed Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, for the UFC, but never competed for or won belts in any Japanese promotions.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for me to cross-promote,” Sergio Pettis said of an overseas move. “Anthony has a WEC belt and a UFC belt, and it would be awesome to have a Bellator belt and Rizin belt as well, to have all the belts in all the organizations – it would feel like a completion.”
In 2019, Bellator 237 cast the promotions against each other in a friendly faceoff. The pandemic put a crimp in the flow of talent between the promotions, but Horiguchi’s meeting with Pettis offers one of the most relevant clashes at 135 pounds outside the UFC.
At the time of his departure from the UFC, Pettis said he was ranked No. 2 in the 125-pound division and climbed into the 135-pound rankings by capturing the Bellator bantamweight belt held by Juan Archuleta. Horiguchi, meanwhile, went on a tear after losing a bid for the UFC flyweight title, capturing the Rizin bantamweight belt in 2018.
“That shows how good he truly is, that he could bounce around weight classes and also organizations and still be at the top tier,” Pettis said. “It takes a real skill set to do that. It’s something I’m trying to do, as well.”
Horiguchi went on to win the Bellator bantamweight title with an upset of Darrion Caldwell, but was forced to relinquish both of his belts after suffering a serious knee injury. He returned to the Rizin ring this past December after an upset non-title loss to Kai Asakura and won the title back by winning a rematch via knockout.
With experience in two weight divisions, Pettis sees the possibility of making another bid for the flyweight title, though he said his age and weight would make it difficult. Right now, he’s only about his upcoming task. Looking ahead at divisions and new titles is a luxury he doesn’t allow himself.
So whether it’s Rizin in the future or another meeting with Archuleta, whom he said messages him regularly about a rematch, Pettis is focused on his business stateside.
“It would be an honor to go overseas and get that opportunity,” he said. “But as of right now, my main focus is next week. I’m not looking ahead of Horiguchi at all. This is one of my toughest fights.”