RIZIN’s Nobuyuki Sakakibara open to PFL co-promotion after Bellator sale: “Doors always open”

By Josh Evanoff - December 28, 2023

RIZIN President Nobuyuki Sakakibara is open to working with PFL and Donn Davis, but it will take some time.

Nobuyuki Sakaibara and Scott Coker

The annual New Year’s event for RIZIN is slated for this weekend. Headlined by Kyoji Horiguchi’s rematch against Makoto Takahashi, the card also features high-profile names such as Juan Archuleta, Kai Asakura, John Dodson, and more. While a fun event, this year’s event will look radically different than last year’s.

For those who remember, last December’s RIZIN’s New Year’s card featured Bellator. The entire main card featured top fighters from the two companies going back and forth. Ultimately, the Scott Coker-led brand went 5-0 that night, much to the chagrin of Nobuyuki Sakakibara. However, it was clear that night was just the beginning of the companies’ partnership.

This July, the second RIZIN X Bellator card went down, and once again featured names such as Patricio Pitbull. However, that event will likely be the final between the two companies. In November, the Viacom-owned promotion was sold to the PFL. Since then, Donn Davis has revealed plans for the brand to be run as a separate entity.

For RIZIN President Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the premise of working with the PFL is an interesting one. However, to make the event, they will need to build a relationship together. Speaking in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Sakakibara stated that part of the reason why the Bellator partnership worked was his close relationship with Scott Coker.


RIZIN, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, Spike Carlyle

Image via The Fight Nation

RIZIN’s Nobuyuki Sakakibara discusses potential PFL co-promotion

“[Co-promoting] was all possible because of the relationship that we’ve had with Scott Coker,” Nobuyuki Sakakibara stated regarding a potential PFL partnership. “And this relationship has not been developed within just one or two years – this goes way back of working together and the trust and relationship that we’ve had. That’s the only reason why we could make this happen…And if promoters with the same open mind can work together like that, we can make these things happen. When two promoters get together and start thinking about what the best move is for the future of our sport, we can do that kind of stuff.” (h/t MMA FIghting)

He continued, “We understand that Bellator is under a new ownership and all promoters have different motives,  all promoters have different ways to promote and philosophies that are different.  Obviously, if Donn Davis has that passion, if he sees the importance of what we’re doing, the concept of what we’re doing for the sport and for the future. … We call ourselves a fight federation, RIZIN Fighting Federation, we want to continue to work with as many promoters as possible that share the same vision.

“I understand that Donn Davis has his ambitions and plans.” Nobuyuki Sakakibara concluded. “So if we can make things work, our doors are always open.”

What do you make of these comments? Do you want to see a RIZIN vs. PFL card in 2024?


Nobuyuki Sakakibara Professional Fighters League (PFL) RIZIN FF