Undefeated champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make a shock return to the combat sports arena to appear on the Rizin 14 card in Saitama, Japan, on New Year’s Eve, against an opponent less than half his age.
Former 5-weight world champ Mayweather, 41, who bowed out of the ring with a 50-0 record following his 10th-round defeat of Conor McGregor in August 2017, will fight Tenshin Nasukawa on December 31.
Kickboxer Nasukawa, 20, has won all of his 27 kickboxing bouts and all four of his MMA fights, and will face Floyd at Saitama Super Arena, although it is as yet unclear as to which rules of combat their fight will adhere.
Strong rumours had surfaced of a potential matchup between Mayweather and Russian UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, in the immediate aftermath of the latter’s fourth-round submission of Conor McGregor at UFC 229.
Khabib called out the boxer in an Instagram video with Mayweather manager Leonard Ellerbe, saying “in the jungle, there can be only one king”, to which the boxer confirmed the two would definitely fight.
The only question that remained was whether the two would meet in a boxing ring or UFC octagon. After UFC president Dana White stated any potential fight would take place only under the auspices of the promotion, it seemed a boxing match – mooted to take place at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium – was firmly off the cards.
Speaking at a news conference for the fight, Mayweather explained that the chance to fight outside his native US, where he has staged each of his 50 professional fights, will be a chance to showcase his fighting skills to the world.
“I wanted to do something different. I wanted to display my skills outside the US and be in a special fight,” Mayweather said, Mail Sport reported. “I spoke with my team and with RIZIN and we put it together.”
“I have fought in the US for all 50 of my fights. As a professional I haven’t had a chance to go outside the US to display my skills and to display my talent for the world.
“I look forward to giving you guys entertainment come December 31, but my relationship with RIZIN, it doesn’t stop just here. I look forward to taking this worldwide,” he added.
On Monday, Mayweather posted ominous snaps of himself posing in Rizin MMA gloves to his social media, hinting at a possible crossover fight. If an MMA bout does materialize, a mega-fight with Khabib would move a huge step closer to reality.