Manel Kape signs UFC contract alongside AKA Thailand teammates

Another highly-touted RIZIN champion is leaving the Japanese-based promotion to sign with the UFC. This time, it’s bantamweight champion Manel Kape (15-4) of AKA Thailand.

Speaking of Kape’s gym, it was AKA Thailand that made the official announcement on Monday after weeks of unconfirmed rumblings.

With a record of 9-1, Manel Kape made his RIZIN Fighting Federation in 2017 as a total unknown to the masses. This didn’t stop “Prodigio” from making massive waves almost immediately as part of RIZIN’s Bantamweight Grand-Prix. In his promotional debut, Kape stopped Erson Yamamoto in 71-seconds before going on to defeat UFC and WEC veteran Ian McCall.

Next up; the semi-final round where Manel Kape was submitted by the eventual champion Kyojio Horiguchi. Despite the loss, Kape was praised for giving Horiguchi quite arguably his toughest fight in many years. It was a respect-earning performance for him, and he found himself on the radar of all fans and fighters alike as someone to watch out for.

Months later, Kape went on to have a barnburner of a fight against Kai Asakura at RIZIN 10. He would lose on the scorecards despite many disagreeing with the call. In a successful rebound from two-straight losses, Manel Kape dominated Yusaku Nakamura before choking the Japanese fan-favorite unconscious in the third and final round at RIZIN 13. Unfortunately, on the following year-end show, Kape was thoroughly dominated by a debuting Ulka Sasaki.

This loss put Manel Kape on a 2019 path of destruction. In his first fight of the year, Kape put on arguably his best performance yet when he took out former ZST champion Seiichiro Ito with beautiful body work in the second round. Then, back in August, Kape welcomed former top-ranked UFC and WEC contender Takeya Mizugaki to RIZIN with another second-round knockout.

The hot streak earned Manel Kape a title shot after Kyoji Horiguchi’s vacancy last year. He faced the man who beat Horiguchi on non-title action; Kai Asakura. Of course, the same man who controversially defeated Kape back in 2018. At RIZIN 20, Kape avenged this loss with his third-straight second-round knockout win to become the new RIZIN bantamweight king.

His first title defense was supposed to come later this year against a deserving contender in Hiromasa Ogikubo. Of course, this fight will not be happening due to Manel Kape’s signing with the UFC.

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