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John Dodson plots ambitious 2023 schedule with hopes to win BKFC title and beat Kyoji Horiguchi in RIZIN

Photos by Phil Lambert

John Dodson refutes any claim that his career is slowing down just because he’s no longer fighting in the UFC.

In fact, the 38-year-old veteran believes he may be plotting perhaps the most ambitious year of his entire career, after closing 2022 with a first-round knockout over Hideo Tokoro as part of the RIZIN New Year’s Eve card in Japan and then following that up with his fight scheduled at BKFC KnuckleMania 3 on Friday. His upcoming bout in BKFC also kicks off a new three-fight deal Dodson signed with the promotion after making a splashy debut by demolishing fellow UFC veteran Ryan Benoit this past August.

“I’m more excited with the three fight deal because of the fact, now I can go ahead and say I can be a bare-knuckle fighter and there’s no reason not to get me to another title fight ASAP,” Dodson told MMA Fighting. “ I’ve got a much more established opponent for BKFC [in Jarod Grant], but if you think about it, Ryan Benoit was a better established fighter. He’s been in the UFC, he’s got knockout power, and he has a decisive win over the Bellator champion Sergio Pettis.

“For me, I want to get the title and continue fighting the best fighters. They can give me whoever they want, whether it be boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, or whatever striking discipline they think is going to surpass me. I welcome all of the challenges.”

As it stands, BKFC doesn’t have a men’s flyweight champion, although Dodson isn’t opposed to fighting for a title at bantamweight if that opportunity arises.

He actually anticipated a showdown with ex-BKFC bantamweight champion Johnny Bedford, who Dodson defeated when they were competing on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, but then Bedford made a sudden decision to retire from the sport.

Dodson would like to believe he played at least some small part in that.

“I’d like to think the reason why Johnny Bedford decided to make an early retirement was because he saw what I did in my first BKFC fight, and knowing that he will not be able to keep up with this pace and movement with his slow eyes,” Dodson said. “When I heard that he retired, I was like I wanted to knock you out again.”

In addition to his goals in BKFC, Dodson is also targeting a return to RIZIN later this year. He wants to conquer the RIZIN flyweight division and pursue a showdown with Kyoji Horiguchi.

It’s a fight that Dodson has long desired, and now he might actually get that opportunity with both fighters under contract to the Japanese promotion.

“I did watch his [last] fight, and you know what? I still think I’m too fast for him,” Dodson said of Horiguchi. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think I’m better than him in every aspect of the game, whether it’s the ground and wrestling or the striking.

“It took him nearly three rounds to go ahead and finish somebody he beat previously to just edge out a decision. It would be a fun fight.”

Dodson hopes that dispatching someone like Horiguchi would put him back in the conversation as the best flyweight in the world, regardless of the promotion.

“I think I am one of the best flyweights,” Dodson said. “Me and [Demetrious Johnson] are 1-1 in those fights, but he has two victories on paper so I’ll consider him to be No. 1 and I’ll be No. 2. From that standpoint, me and him are the two best flyweights regardless of the promotion or what organization it is.”

This all adds up to a busy 2023, but Dodson wouldn’t have it any other way.

Switching back and forth between MMA and bare-knuckle is actually the ideal scenario for Dodson as he seeks to prove himself across multiple disciplines, just like his old friend Demetrious Johnson did with his mixed-rules fight in ONE Championship.

“You’re writing the whole script,” Dodson teased. “Have me go out there win this fight, go and fight in the grand prix and win that in RIZIN and then come back and win a BKFC title. I feel like this year is going to be a momentous occasion for myself because of the fact that I can earn titles in two different fighting styles and be controlled in that discipline.

“Not only showing that I’m the more dominant force, but I’m kind of trying to step on the toes of Demetrious Johnson having the fight with Rodtang [Jitmuangnon] being MMA and Muay Thai, but I’m going to go with bare-knuckle and MMA.”

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