Kleber Koike is finally getting his shot at the RIZIN featherweight title.
A former 145-pound titleholder at KSW, Koike was hoping to challenge Yutaka Saito in October 2021, but an injury forced RIZIN to change plans. DEEP champion Juntarou Ushiku stepped in and dethroned Saito. A year later, Koike celebrates his opportunity in the main event of Sunday’s RIZIN 39 in Fukuoka, Japan.
“RIZIN said they were going to do a featherweight GP so I live inside an imaginary GP, and now I’m in the final,” Koike said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “It’s going to be a beautiful submission, like the other times.”
Koike signed with RIZIN in 2020 and choked out five opponents in a row, including Mikuru Asakura and Ulka Sasaki. In his most recent performance in May, the Brazilian tapped Kyohei Hagiwara in 97 seconds.
“He has never fought someone like me,” Koike said. “I’m going straight forward and will make him miss. All I need is one hand to force him to change his game — or getting him on his back, I guarantee I’ll catch him.”
Koike said RIZIN originally planned on booking him vs. Ushiku for July, and he started his training camp at American Top Team before traveling to Thailand. The match was then moved to September, he said, on the same card of a boxing exhibition between Floyd Mayweather and Mikuru Asakura, but will only go down in October.
Koike said “I’m ready for war” despite the delay, and “the belt is ours.”
“He has that champion’s aura now because he’s the champion in two promotions, RIZIN and DEEP, and he’s a guy that worries me because he takes fights to the distance,” Koike said. “He doesn’t take risks. I think he’s a good athlete, well-rounded, but nothing that worries me that much. All the credit for being a champion, but I believe in what I do and I will become champion.
“I want to push the pace and make him miss. Once I have him on his back, I’m sure I’ll catch him. I have to land one hand to change the game.”