RIZIN bantamweight superstar Kai Asakura announces stunning move to UFC

Kai Asakura relinquishes title and announces move to the UFC.

RIZIN bantamweight superstar Kai Asakura announces stunning move to UFC

Kai Asakura leaves Rizin to join the UFC (via MMA Fighting/ YouTube)

The UFC has become synonymous with the elite level of MMA. As such, talent from other organizations have one goal in mind: to join the UFC. Rizin bantamweight Kai Asakura has done just that. He announced his stunning departure from the Japanese promotion, signing a multi-fight deal with the UFC.

Asakura himself delivered the news. After all, Asakura isn’t just any fighter – he’s a bonafide star in Japan and a two-time Rizin bantamweight champion. He has a reputation for thrilling performances. As such, the bantamweight intends to win the undisputed UFC gold.

As I announced in the ring, I will be giving up my RIZIN bantamweight belt and going to UFC. I'm grateful to Sakakibara-san for accepting my selfish wish to go to UFC without ever defending my title and for pushing me forward. My dream is to become a UFC champion and bring fans from all over the world to Japan. I will definitely get the belt, so please look forward to it.
Kai Asakura via X (translated from Japanese)

Asakura is undoubtedly in his prime at 30 years old and boasting an impressive 21-4 record. His well-rounded skill set and experience against top-tier opposition make him an immediate threat to the UFC’s 135-pound elite. He could be paired up with the likes of bantamweight elites like Petr Yan or Rob Font in his debut fight.

Kai Asakura is one of the biggest stars in Rizin along with Kyoji Horiguchi. He fought in other Japanese organizations before joining Rizin. It has been around six years for him in Rizin. Asakura’s striking prowess and grappling skills have made him a fan favorite in Japan. Dana White has yet to announce the signing of Asakura but will announce it soon.

Kai Asakura could be UFC’s re-entry into the Japanese market

At first glance, adding a 30-year-old bantamweight from Rizin might not seem like a seismic move. But Asakura isn’t just any fighter. He’s someone the UFC could use to sell out arenas in Japan. His arrival in the UFC has already sent shockwaves through the Japanese MMA community.

Rizin bantamweight could be UFC's ticket into Japan
Rizin bantamweight could be UFC’s ticket into Japan (via Asian MMA)

Asakura’s true value to the UFC likely lies beyond his in-cage abilities. Having a homegrown star of his caliber on the roster could be invaluable in a market as notoriously crowded as Japan. This addition to the roster could allow UFC to host events in Japan again. The last time they went to Japan was back in 2012. The promotion’s first Japan show in over a decade, headlined by Asakura, would undoubtedly be a sell-out.

It’s a potential goldmine for the UFC that could help them crack the long-elusive Japanese market. This could break records in Japan by merging the UFC’s might and Asakura’s star power. Asakura’s last three events were all massive crowd magnets, drawing in over 20K people twice and over 14K people once. As such, Asakura’s time in the UFC has immense potential.

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