Newly crowned Bellator bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta already has an opponent in mind for his first title defense, but doesn’t think he’ll get him.
Archuleta (25-2 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) captured the vacant 135-pound title when he rallied to beat Patchy Mix at Bellator 246 and has focused his attention on someone he’s been targeting for a while.
Prior to falling short to champion Patricio Freire in the opening round of the featherweight grand prix in September 2019, Archuleta called out then-RIZIN and Bellator bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi.
However, Bellator and RIZIN decided to go in a different direction and Horiguchi ended up competing in a non-title bout at RIZIN 18 in August 2019. He was upset by Kai Asakura. He has not competed since and vacated his Bellator 135-pound title after suffering a knee injury.
Now that “The Spaniard” has claimed the vacant bantamweight title, he wants original titleholder Horiguchi (28-3 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). But with Horiguchi still sidelined, Archuleta doubts the fight will happen.
Instead, he thinks Sergio Pettis is likely next in line. Since making his Bellator debut in January, Pettis has notched two wins over Alfred Khashakyan and Ricky Bandejas.
“Going forward, I know what’s at stake is if Horiguchi was going to be ready, which I don’t think he’s going to be,” Archuleta told MMA Junkie Radio. “I mean, he relinquished his belt. It’s his belt to begin with that we fought for. But I think next in line, if he’s not ready, is Sergio Pettis, and that’s going to come up quick. So I already jumped back into training and things like that, as well as just walking (and) showing up to practices to help Brian Ortega for his upcoming fight.
“But going forward, you get big-opportunity fights now that are going to make you a household name, people like Pettis, Horiguchi, myself. People fighting me, now I’m a household name, people want to tune in to watch me fight. That’s a lot of love and responsibility.”
Pettis (20-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) has only had two fights under the Bellator banner, but has a wealth of experience in the UFC. He’s only 27, but Pettis has competed 14 times in the UFC and has been in there with the likes of former UFC dual-champ Henry Cejudo and multiple-time flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez.
So Archuleta knows he’d be going up against a very worthy opponent.
“He’s a gamer,” Archuleta said. “He’s been in there with the best – the best 125ers in the world. That’s what he’s going to bring. He’s going to bring experience, he’s going to bring talent, and I see me beating him. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great matchup for myself. But it’s going to be a hell of a fight. It’s one of the fights that I wanted to have for the vacant title, anyway, but Bellator and myself thought Patchy had a little better momentum in the organization, and so that was the contender. And so now I’m going to be able to prove to myself and to Bellator that I’m the best.”