After winning the Bellator bantamweight championship with a stellar performance against Juan Archuleta in May, Sergio Pettis appeared to have finally reached the potential many saw in him when he made his UFC debut in 2013. Now, in the main event of Bellator 272 on Friday night, Pettis will put his belt on the line against a former champion who never lost his title when he faces Kyoji Horiguchi.
Horiguchi earned the strap at Bellator 222 in June 2019, beating Darrion Caldwell by unanimous decision. That November, Horiguchi was forced to vacate the championship after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. The fight with Caldwell was Horiguchi's first and only in the Bellator cage to date and a result of the relationship between Bellator MMA and Japanese promotion Rizin, where Horiguchi is now a two-time bantamweight champion.
Horiguchi's standing as a top bantamweight who has held titles in two different promotions is not lost on Pettis. Pettis told CBS Sports that a win over Horiguchi would clearly raise his position as one of the division's elite, as well as making a statement about his place at flyweight.
"I think that puts me up there in the conversation about being one of the best in the flyweight division and bantamweight division," Pettis said. "We were both flyweights. Having a win over Horiguchi would do a lot for me and my career and just personally. I'm here to be one of the best martial artists that I can be. Fighting another great martial artist like Horiguchi and winning against him would mean a lot to me."
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Since leaving the UFC after a win over Tyson Nam, and with a 9-5 record in the Octagon, Pettis has been perfect in the Bellator cage, rattling off three straight wins including his championship-winning performance against Archuleta.
A win over Horiguchi would be huge for Pettis, but there could be another big fight coming down the road, with some speculation that former Bellator featherweight and lightweight champion Patricio Pitbull could attempt to cut to 135 pounds to make a run at a title in a third division.
It's a fight Pettis says he'd welcome in his pursuit to establish himself as the best in the world.
"I think he would make that cut," Pettis said. "I think he's about the same height as me. Maybe a little bit shorter but he definitely has a wide frame and a big body. If he can make that cut, I'm willing to take any challenge that they put in front of me. I'm never going to say no to a fight. I'm always willing to test my skills against some of the best fighters in the world. Pitbull is one of the best in the world. That would be awesome for my career."
Here's the fight card for Bellator 272 with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Bellator 272 card, odds
Kyoji Horiguchi -190
Sergio Pettis (c) +160
Emmanuel Sanchez -200
Jeremy Kennedy +170
Jared Scoggins -135
Josh Hill +115
|Johnny Eblen -1500||Collin Huckbody +850||Middleweight|
Bellator 272 viewing information
Date: Dec. 3 | Start time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena -- Uncasville, Connecticut
TV Channel: Showtime | Stream: Showtime.com and the Showtime app
Sergio Pettis vs. Kyoji Horiguchi: Horiguchi is an undeniably talented fighter. He is, however, also a fighter who has had several major knee injuries and is fighting for just the second time since the most recent. Horiguchi returned to action in December 2020 to beat Kai Asakura and avenge a knockout loss suffered in Rizin after winning the Bellator title. That fight came nearly a year ago. Pettis has fought four times in the same stretch where Horiguchi has only had one between his injury and lone December 2020 fight. It doesn't make a ton of sense that Pettis is the underdog heading in and this seems a prime opportunity for Pettis to pick up a big win in his first title defense. Pick: Sergio Pettis via UD