Trading Gold for Glory: Japanese MMA Star Vacates Title to Join UFC

One of the biggest UFC signings in years.
Rizin FF / Sachiko Hotaka

Kai Asakura is the latest addition to the UFC bantamweight roster.

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The 21-4-0 fighter carved out a legacy as a two-time bantamweight champion in RIZIN. Asakura's initial reign met its match in the form of Kyoji Horiguchi in 2020, and he reclaimed his throne in 2023. However, the unexpected unfolded at RIZIN 47 on June 10: Asakura made a shock decision to relinquish the belt and step into the UFC.

Asakura's crowd-pleasing style has made him a huge PPV draw in the East and he easily makes for one of the biggest-named signings in recent UFC history.

Who Should Kai Asakura Face in his First UFC Fight?

The UFC hasn't commented on Asakura's signing yet, but he is expected to face one of their top bantamweights. Asakura has a history with one ranked UFC fighter, Manel Kape, who sits a division below in flyweight.

The top five bantamweights are Merab Dvalishvili, Cory Sandhagen, Petr Yan, Marlon Vera, and Henry Cejudo. The only fighters without bookings here are Yan and Cejudo (with Dvalishvili earmarked for a title fight). 'No Mercy' Yan would undoubtedly be the better stylistic matchup for Asakura's brawler style.

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Curious fans can watch some of Asakura's KO highlights below, courtesy of RIZIN on YouTube.

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Mathew Riddle


Mathew is a UK-based combat sports journalist  and graphic designer. He joined MMAKO when it was first founded in 2023. Find his work on The Fight Fanatic & Heavy on UFC. He can be contacted on