UFC signs Rizin bantamweight champion Kai Asakura

Kai Asakura is headed to the UFC.

Japanese star Asakura (21-4) recaptured the Rizin bantamweight title this past December against Juan Archuleta, who missed weight for the fight and was ineligible to retain the title. Saturday at Rizin 47, promotion head Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced Asakura has relinquished his title so he could sign with the UFC.

The UFC has not yet made a formal announcement of the 30-year-old’s signing, but he is expected to quickly be a threat to the upper echelon of the UFC’s 135-pound weight class, which currently is ruled by Sean O’Malley.

Asakura has fought exclusively for Rizin for more than six years. Before that, he fought for Japanese organizations like Deep and Road FC.

Asakura first won the Rizin bantamweight title in August 2020 when he knocked out Hiromasa Ougikubo. He lost the belt the same year in a rematch against Kyoji Horiguchi. It took him three years, and a run of 5-1, to win the title back, but he won’t defend it ahead of his move to the UFC.

Asakura is regarded as one of Japan’s best fighters. He holds notable victories over Archuleta, Horiguchi, Manel Kape and Ulka Sasaki.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie