LOS ANGELES – Bellator MMA has announced that its fifth participant for the New Year's Eve spectacle against Rizin Fighting Federation opponents will be No. 10-ranked lightweight Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4-2), taking on 27-year-old Japanese standout Koji Takeda (15-3) in a compelling matchup between two competitors riding high on the strength of consecutive victories.
A first-of-its-kind blockbuster co-promotion, Bellator MMA vs. Rizin FF takes place inside the Saitama Super Arena in Japan on Saturday, December 31, and can be seen in the United States on Showtime at 8 p.m. ET on New Year's Eve.
Rabadanov vs. Takeda will join a star-studded five-fight Bellator MMA vs. Rizin main card, which is stacked from top to bottom with current and former champions competing in the four-sided ring under Rizin's unique rules. Headlining the event will be a dream matchup between Rizin lightweight champion Roberto "Satoshi" de Souza (14-1) against No. 3 Bellator pound-for-pound talent A.J. "Mercenary" McKee (19-1), with Bellator and RIZIN featherweight champions Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (34-5) and Kleber Koike (31-5-1) co-headlining the must-see event.
Former Bellator champions Juan "The Spaniard" Archuleta (26-4) and Kyoji Horiguchi (30-5) will round out the unparalleled main card, facing off with RIZIN's Soo Chul Kim (18-6-1) and Hiromasa Ougikubo (25-6-2), respectively.
Rabadanov, 29, signed with Bellator in 2021 after capturing the Eagle FC lightweight title and has made an immediate impact on the promotion's remarkably deep lightweight division. He announced his arrival in thunderous fashion at Bellator 263 with an emphatic viral knockout of Daniel Carey, which he followed up with back-to-back dominant unanimous decision victories over Jay Jay Wilson and Bobby King in 2022. The product of the renowned Club Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov's School in Dagestan and the prestigious American Kickboxing Academy, Rabadanov's pedigree is world-class. On New Year's Eve, Rabadanov will look to continue building upon his momentum with an impressive performance against Takeda.
"It is a childhood dream come true to fight in Japan at the legendary Saitama Super Arena," said Rabadanov. "I'm very excited, and I know I have a tough opponent, who always leaves everything in the ring. Expect a masterpiece from me, it will be a memorable fight."
A former DEEP lightweight champion, Japan's Takeda has been an active fighter since his 2017 professional debut. Takeda boasts a compelling case for inclusion on this historic fight card, winning seven of his last 10 and three of his last four outings under the RIZIN and DEEP banners. Takeda is also familiar with Bellator foes; he has previously fought Spike Carlyle and submitted Zach Zane by armbar, both of whom fought recently for the Scott Coker-led promotion. Takeda will look to add a third straight win to his resume against the highly-touted Rabadanov in his hometown of Saitama, Japan, on December 31
The Bellator MMA vs. Rizin FF lineup currently includes:
- A.J. McKee vs. Roberto de Souza
- Patricio "Pitbull" Freire vs. Kleber Koike
- Juan Archuleta vs. Soo Chul Kim
- Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Hiromasa Ougikubo
- Gadzhi Rabadanov vs. Koji Takeda