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Darrion Caldwell’s goals: Avenge Kyoji Horiguchi loss, win Bellator featherweight tourney

NEW YORK – Kyoji Horiguchi took a fight with Ben Nguyen in April, and as far as Darrion Caldwell is concerned, that’s proof Horiguchi is worried about his impending rematch with Caldwell.

Horiguchi (27-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) submitted Caldwell (12-2 MMA, 9-1 BMMA) in the third round of their Dec. 31 bout in Japan, which crowned Horiguchi the first Rizin FF super bantamweight champion.

But the cross-promotional rematch is coming up Friday night at Madison Square Garden, this time with Caldwell’s Bellator bantamweight belt on the line.

As far as Caldwell is concerned, he’s been ready from the moment Horiguchi’s hand was raised. So if Horiguchi needed a tuneup, that’s probably a sign he’s not too confident.

“I got to focus in on myself and get better the past six months,” Horiguchi told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s Bellator 222 media day. “Obviously he took that fight against whoever his name is (Nguyen), he got kicked out of the UFC and took a fight between the fight. He felt like he needed that to polish up for this fight. I’ve been ready to go since they raised his hand. I’ve been ready to put this behind me and get back in the cage with him, so I knew he’d have to eventually come over into my world.

So on June 14, I’m going to show out.”

Perhaps Caldwell’s confidence stems from the fact he’s been in this situation once before. His only previous career loss was a submission to Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 159 in 2016. Caldwell avenged the loss in his very next fight, then went on a four-fight winning streak and scooped up Bellator gold along the way. No wonder Caldwell sounds “been there, done that.”

“I’m just ready to get this weight off Friday night and smash this guy,” Caldwell said. “A lot more focused than I was in Japan, different atmosphere, but pretty much the same thing as every time I go out there and fight, I’ve got the mindset of taking this guy out.”

After that? Caldwell’s got his eyes on the Bellator featherweight tourney, which is expected to kick off sometime late this year.

“I am going to be in the Bellator tournament,” said Caldwell, who is 7-0 in his career at 145 pounds. “I am going to be the ’45-pound champ by 2020. … Look for ‘The Wolf’ to be in there undefeated at ’45, I’ve never shied away from competition, there’s never been a contract in front of me where I said no, so look for me to go to the 145-pound division and take those guys out as well.”

Bellator 222 takes place Friday at Madison Square Garden. The main card streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

For more on Bellator 222, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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