Kleber Koike, RIZIN champion: “I spent a whole year believing in UFC.”


Kleber Koike once dreamed of signing with the UFC, but that is no longer a goal for the RIZIN featherweight champion.

Back in 2017, when Koike clinched the KSW title and capped off an impressive 20-1-1 run over seven years competing in Asia and Europe, a UFC move felt like a foregone conclusion. However, after becoming a free agent following a KSW title loss to Mateusz Gamrot in 2018 did not lead to the UFC shot he was hoping for, Koike instead ended up in RIZIN. He promptly finished five straight opponents to take the 145-pound title away from Juntarou Ushiku.

Now set to face Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull in a non-title bout at the Bellator vs. RIZIN card this Saturday in Japan, Koike doesn’t care about one day competing inside the UFC octagon.

” Being in the UFC these days is not an option,” Koike stated on this week’s episode of Trocacao Franka .. Although I have the ability to fight in the UFC, now I’m determined to protect my company, build my reputation, and preserve my name. Although I was unable to spend a whole year believing that the UFC would deliver, it cost me a lot of time.

“I tried going to the UFC when my contract with KSW ended but they wouldn’t get me because I was coming off of a loss. They offered me a job, so I agreed. I started fighting again and won my next fights. RIZIN made me refuse it. They came again [later], and now it’s only an option. I can say today that I didn’t want to be in the UFC.

“RIZIN took me in when I didn’t have a job, when I had nothing. RIZIN gave me an opportunity to come to Japan, so I don’t dream of being in the UFC [anymore]. That’s the past. Other dreams are in my future. I want to help my company grow and be more known. I want to show that that we have other champions in other organizations that can take the MMA further. Media is too focused on UFC .”

Koike is back in the ring, ready to take on Pitbull just two months after winning his title over Ushiku.

He admitted that he’d prefer to have more time for preparations, but it’s an opportunity Koike wouldn’t allow pass.

” We know Pitbull to be a great pound-for-pound fighter, and I believe he would rank among the top three or five UFC fighters,” Koike stated. We keep active because you never know what opportunity may present itself. This is a rare opportunity to fight someone like him and showcase my work

Koike is on a seven-fight winning streak with seven submissions and expects a win over the Bellator champion to “put RIZIN and myself on the radar.”

Pitbull won decisions over A.J. McKee and Adam Borics in his most recent bouts under the Bellator banner in 2022.

“I believe I can put on a great fight and win,” Koike said. “Everybody talks about Pitbull being a knockout artist, but if you look at his record, he has more submissions than knockouts. He’s a well-rounded guy and that’s what I admire the most about him, but I believe in my work and my jiu-jitsu. The same way I know he’s coming to knock me out, I’m going for the submission. The same way I know I can’t make mistakes against him, he knows he can’t make mistakes against me on the ground.

“Even though he says he has a lot of submissions and his jiu-jitsu is aggressive, my jiu-jitsu is unique and I think I can surprise him. He is a great fighter and I admire him. However, I am looking for a better future for my family as well as for me. As a fighter .”

, I feel that beating him will elevate me to a higher level.

Source: https://www.mmafighting.com/2022/12/29/23530772/rizin-champion-kleber-koike-lost-a-year-of-my-life-believing-in-the-ufc-bellator?rand=96749