Rizin president Nobuyuki Sakakibara teased a mysterious deal with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on his social media on Sunday. Two days later, he explained what that was about.
Sakakibara hosted a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, to announce two additional kickboxing bouts to upcoming Rizin 15 on April 21, clarifying that the company’s deal with Pacquiao doesn’t involve the boxing legend entering the ring to compete.
“This is not a fight contract,” Sakakibara said. “This agreement was made based off of Manny Pacquiao supporting the young Filipino fighter who will be fighting Tenshin Nasukawa.”
According to a press release issued by Rizin on Tuesday, “it seems as the deal was made more of an ambassador role for Filipino fighters to get bigger opportunities.” Even though the current deal doesn’t include boxing matches, Sakakibara doesn’t rule out securing a separate deal in the future.
“I would (definitely) be interested in talking to Manny about a possible exhibition match, but we are not quite there yet,” Sakakibara said. “But if it happens, I don’t think it would be against Tenshin. We learned a lot from dealing with Mayweather. If anybody were to fight Manny in an exhibition, it would have to be (Takanori) Gomi.”
In his last appearance under the Rizin banner in December, Nasukawa lost by first-round TKO against superstar Floyd Mayweather in a boxing exhibition. The young Japanese star recently beat Federico Roma with a spectacular knockout (watch here) in his return to kickboxing in March, and now faces Philippines’ Fritz Biagtan under kickboxing rules in Rizin.
The other kickboxing bout announced for Rizin 15 features Taiga Kawabe versus Thallison Ferreira.
”My opponent is a fighter that Manny Pacquiao will support,” Nasukawa said. “I know he will be an extremely tough opponent. I do not plan to take this lightly, but I am in the middle of the RISE tournament so I don’t have time to be losing to anybody right now.”
Pacquiao, who lost a decision to Mayweather in 2015, said he respects Nasukawa “for taking on a challenge against Floyd Mayweather under his rules. Tenshin and myself are the only Asians to have taken such a challenge. I think giving opportunities to young fighters with heart and skill will only help both countries. I will be in Yokohama to cheer on Fritz. I will see you all there.”
The complete Rizin 15 fight card can be seen below.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ben Nguyen
Muhammed Lawal vs. Jiri Prochazka
Kai Asakura vs. Justin Scoggins
Mikuru Asakura vs. Luiz Gustavo
Damien Brown vs. Koji Takeda
Satoru Kitaoka vs. Roberto Satoshi Souza
Manel Kape vs. Seiichiro Ito
Karl Albrektsson vs. Christiano Frohlich
Kana Watanabe vs. Justyna Haba
Shinju Auclair vs. Saray Orozco
Teshin Nasukawa vs. Fritz Biagtan — kickboxing bout
Taiga Kawabe vs. Thallison Ferreira — kickboxing bout