It’s hard to remember every name that comes and goes in a major MMA promotion. With dozens of fighters entering and exiting a promotion every year, it’s simply not fair to expect people to remember every name they see.
Some people may have forgotten that Yoshinori Horie was at one point a UFC fighter. That could very well be because he competed only once for the promotion, losing a bout to rising featherweight Hakeem Dawodu in 2019.
Horie didn’t get much of a chance to get noticed by viewers, as the UFC cut him right after his debut performance. This release was uncharacteristic for the UFC. The promotion often gives fighters two, three or even four chances before letting them go from their contracts. This was a surprise that Horie shared along with others who had followed his career up to that point.
“I definitely thought I would have a longer shot in the UFC. I was nothing but shocked when I heard I was let go,” said Horie in an interview through a translator with Knockdown News.
Horie now has the chance to reintroduce himself to viewers, as he competes on Sunday’s RIZIN 27 card. The fight will be his first on a major stage since his short UFC run-in. He will have the chance again to fight in front of bigger crowds and larger audiences viewing online.
“I want to be in front of many people’s eyes. The fact that I’m fighting in a promotion with more exposure, it’s definitely a motivation boost for me,” said Horie.
The RIZIN fight comes after he recently returned to regional Japanese MMA promotion Pancrase. While most of his pro fights have finished via stoppage, these two recent appearances went the distance. His return fight was a win against Yojiro Uchimura, and his most recent bout was a split decision loss to Taichi Nakajima.
These two performances are not ones that Horie is especially proud of. He hopes that his fight on Sunday will be an improvement from those bouts.
“My last fights, I wasn’t able to commit. I wasn’t able to showcase my strengths. I’m focused on being able to fight my fight and bring back my fight style,” said Horie.
Horie also believes that his opponent, Tetsuya Seki, is a worthy dance partner for a good fight. Seki will be making his second appearance in RIZIN, aiming to fight to either a draw or win for his 11th consecutive bout.
“I think Seki is a good opponent. We have similar styles: he’s a striker. I think this matchup has all the reasons for this to be a fun fight,” said Horie.
The ruleset of RIZIN is also something that Horie is excited to use. His entire pro career thus far has come under promotions that use the unified rules of MMA. This means no soccer kicks or knees to the head of a grounded opponent. On Sunday, he will get the chance to use those strikes legally for the first time.
“I think the RIZIN ruleset is more like a real fight. It’s like if you get in a streetfight you can utilize those techniques,” said Horie. “I’ve always thought and imagined what I’d do if I were in those situations. I think those rulesets, those styles fit for me.”
The 25-year-old has now gone three fights since earning a finish win. He said he enters Sunday’s fight with the goal of getting back to the finishing ways that were seen earlier in his career.
A strong performance from Horie on Sunday could end his recent struggles in the cage and allow him to make a name for himself on a big MMA stage.