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RIZIN 43 and the three bears: Wildlife nearly canceled historic MMA event

“We had to fight off three bears. Like, real bears.”

RIZIN 43 delivered the craziness before it even started.

RIZIN touched down in Hokkaido, Japan for the first time in the promotion’s eight-year history this past month (June 23, 2023). As a result, fight fans around the world were treated to an unexpectedly legendary event.

On paper, the card was solid but nothing special compared to the typical RIZIN spectacle. In the end, 14 of the 17 fights delivered several unforgettable finishes with multiple year-end best-of-contenders. Magic was in the air on the night and RIZIN matchmaker and BROADENED HORIZIN co-host, Shingo Kashiwagi, shared that the MMA gods nearly prevented it with some absurd pre-fight variables.

“We had to fight off three bears. Like, real bears,” Kashiwagi said with a laugh on BROADENED HORIZIN 29. “There were three bear sightings on the premises a couple days before our event. So ... (laughs) the city didn’t want us to hold the event. They were like, ‘Can you cancel?’ because there were wild bear sightings. They don’t want 6,000 to 10,000 people around the bears.

“We had to double up on security, we had to fence off a lot more additional stuff, but we still made the event happen,” he concluded. “But even before that exciting card, there were some pre-fights going on.”

While RIZIN 43 was primarily a knockout fest with eight of the 14 finishes ending in said fashion, the submission variety was ridiculous as well. All six submissions were different types of techniques scored by the winners, who displayed an armbar, kneebar, rear-naked choke, triangle choke, scarf hold armbar, and an extremely rare modified twister.

RIZIN continues to break into new markets around Japan and because of that, Kashiwagi feels it leads to a lot of the local talent rising to the occasion. Additionally, it just motivates the mainstays to show off for a first-time audience.

“This happens a lot when we travel outside of Tokyo, the metropolis area, and we go to a new city,” Kashiwagi said. “A lot of people are excited to be able to attend our event for the first time. So, the energy was amazing. Tickets went really quick even before we announced the fight card. It was very nice to know that we were very welcomed and anticipated over in Hokkaido and the fights definitely showed.”

RIZIN and Bellator get back to collaborating for Super RIZIN 2 in Tokyo, Japan this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2023). The event will host four overall title bouts (three for RIZIN, one for Bellator) along with the last Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix opening round match up, pitting the former Featherweight champion, A.J. McKee, against the former Lightweight champion, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire.

Watch the full episode in the video embedded above or listen on Spotify.


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