Bellator featherweight king Patricio Pitbull has been campaigning for cross promotion in MMA for years now, and he will finally get his chance when he faces RIZIN 145-pound titleholder Kleber Koike in the main event of Bellator vs. RIZIN on Dec. 31 in Saitama, Japan.
Don’t expect him to “represent” the company and hope for a clean 5-0 sweep over RIZIN fighters, though, especially since his longtime rival A.J. McKee is battling lightweight champion Roberto Satoshi in the co-main event. In the end, Pitbull would return home a happy man if Bellator gets it done by 4-1.
“Tough fight, but I’m rooting for the Brazilian,” Pitbull said on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca about McKee vs. Satoshi. “Bellator is in this like a team and internally we said we would all fight to beat RIZIN, but I’m Brazil.
“A.J. McKee is very explosive on the feet, he’s very dangerous early on,” he continued. “If Satoshi holds him back in the first round he will start to slow down, and Satoshi is way better on the ground in my opinion, he pulls off submissions out of nowhere. He just beat Tofiq Musayev, who’s super tough, so it’s a tough fight.”
As for Pitbull vs. Koike, none of the belts will be on the line when they meet inside the ring. Yet that doesn’t change a thing for the Bellator star since “I’m set to be at the top all the time” and “I don’t like to lose.”
“Kleber is a great champion, he has 27 submissions in his career,” Pitbull said. “I was impressed by that number, I didn’t know that. … One thing I hadn’t noticed is that he’s very calm and that makes people think they will run through him and then he chokes them out or gets an arm or something out of nowhere. You have to be alert at all times. I won’t let that happen.”
Pitbull won nine of his past 10 bouts, having avenged his most recent setback to McKee, and feels history will be made if he beats Koike in Japan on New Year’s Eve.
“We’re taking the step the sport needs,” Pitbull said. “We’re putting champion against champion there, we’ll know who’s the best among the two of us, and it opens the possibility for me to face champions from other organizations. This is the first step. We’ll see what happens next.”
Depending on how things go at the Saitama Super Arena, Pitbull said he’s willing to run it back against Koike in the United States, this time with both belts on the line, to make history like Kyoji Horiguchi, a former two-promotion champion in RIZIN and Bellator.
“It’s something huge,” he said, “but it has to be done carefully, considering there’s logistics to be figured out between the promotions, and the distance.”
Pitbull said he was given the option to select the ruleset for his clash with Koike and asked to combine both unified rules and RIZIN’s ruleset. Soccer kicks, foot stomps and elbow strikes from all angles will be allowed, he said, including 12-to-6 strikes.
“I started fighting on vale tudo rules and that’s the style in which we had an advantage,” he said. “Patricky [Pitbull], if you look at his record, he had three knockouts by stomps in his first fights. Getting that taken away limited us in a way, but now we’re adapted to the American style.”