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John Dodson set for New Year’s Eve debut after inking multi-fight deal with RIZIN, still hopes for Kyoji Horiguchi fight

UFN Fight Night 96 Weigh-in Photos
John Dodson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Almost exactly 18 years after he last fought in Japan, John Dodson is returning after inking a multi-fight contract with RIZIN.

Dodson’s debut bout is booked for the upcoming New Year’s Eve card, which will also feature several fighters from the Bellator MMA roster. In his first fight with the promotion, Dodson faces Hideo Tokoro in a flyweight bout scheduled for Dec. 31.

According to Dodson, his deal with RIZIN is a long time coming after he originally agreed to join the promotion shortly after his release from the UFC, but the global pandemic prevented him from actually traveling and competing in Japan.

“I was trying to fight [Kyoji] Horiguchi when the UFC released me,” Dodson told MMA Fighting. “It’s been since that long. Then COVID came and shut everything down. Not only did it ruin my career in the UFC but also when I was trying to make a resurgence somewhere else, I wasn’t allowed to go to another country because of the borders being shut down. I had to wait patiently and bide my time to see where I was going.”

Dodson stayed busy with fights in XMMA before signing with the BKFC where he made his successful debut in bare-knuckle competition with a first-round knockout over fellow UFC veteran Ryan Benoit this past August.

Now the two-time UFC title challenger has a chance to compete against the best flyweights and bantamweights in Japan where Dodson feels like he’ll be a natural fit for the promotion.

“That’s why I can’t wait to go over there,” Dodson explained. “My style and my personality and my energy, it just fits that mold. I want to become a champion in that organization and showcase my abilities of being an entertainer but also knocking people out. I’m not getting away from that.

“I’m still going to go out there and be as vicious as possible but I’m going to do it with more of a killer smile.”

Dodson hopes he’ll eventually get the chance to clash with Kyoji Horiguchi now that the Japanese star is also competing in RIZIN again in addition to his contract in Bellator MMA.

“I still believe I’m the best 125er in the world,” Dodson said. “Not only that but I believe I’m the best fighter in the world. A chance to go ahead and beat the RIZIN champion and just take their steam and everybody’s hopes and dreams, I’ll keep solidifying that until the day that I decide to retire.”

As part of his new deal with RIZIN, Dodson will still be allowed to compete in the BKFC with hopes that he’ll get to return to action there with a card tentatively expected to land in New Mexico in February.

“I would love for that opportunity to beat somebody up in my hometown,” Dodson said about his next BKFC fight. “Since it was so spectacular the first time when BKFC came out here. I want to showcase my new abilities with everyone else as well.”

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