Everyone knows about it ufcbut for almost thirty years, Pancrase has been a fight promotion where some of the toughest fighters in the world can show off their skills.
In 1993, two professional wrestlers came up with the idea of running a promotion where wrestlers would show off their different fighting techniques to prove who really is the best fighter. Whether they were dishing out strikes or focusing on submissions, Pancrase was a place where fighters could show off their skills and the results weren’t predetermined like in the professional wrestling world. Mixed martial arts pioneers performed in the Pancrase ring and there are many things all fight fans should know about the legendary fighting action.
10 Before the UFC
The UFC is often credited with creating the sport of mixed martial arts almost three decades ago when they had their first event in November 1993. However, Pancrase held its first event in September 1993, predating the most famous MMA promotion in the world.
While the UFC was the first of the two promotions to use the term mixed martial arts, Pancrase used the term “hybrid wrestlers”. While the UFC featured fighters from a variety of backgrounds including wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu and other martial arts, Pancrase referred to all as wrestlers, although some athletes had stronger backgrounds in other martial arts.
9 hybrid wrestler
Before Pancrase, wrestlers in Japan were known for doing one of two things. They either competed in amateur wrestling with the ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics, or they were professional wrestlers performing pre-determined feats.
With the debut of Pancrase, wrestlers were given the opportunity to be “hybrid wrestlers”. This meant wrestlers could show off their fighting skills in a professional setting. Pancrase allowed wrestlers to actually use some moves used in professional wrestling. While wrestlers could use grappling to control their opponents and seek submissions, they could also injure their opponents with punches.
8th Original Rules
Compared to the early days of the UFC, there were a lot more rules in Pancrase. For example, some rules were based on professional wrestling. Wrestlers could only use closed fists when slapping the body and were required to use an open palm when slapping the face.
There were also unique rules when it came to ground combat. Professional wrestling rules were also used in the submissions. Competitors could escape a submission by holding onto the ropes, however they could only do so five times. Also, if a fighter used the ropes to escape a submission, a point was deducted. Other unique rules included no elbows to the head. Much like today’s MMA, fighters could not kneel or kick an opponent on the ground.
7 Minoru Suzuki
One of the founders of Pancrase is Japanese wrestling legend Minoru Suzuki who currently performs for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
In the late ’80s, Suzuki made the transition from amateur to professional wrestling. He originally trained at the New Japan Dojo before leaving promotion to perform elsewhere. In 1993 Suzuki formed Pancrase and for the remainder of the decade focused on ascension. In the 2000s, Suzuki refocused on professional wrestling and the rest is history. Today, Suzuki runs his own faction in New Japan and is one of the promotion’s most popular wrestlers.
6 Masakatsu Funaki
Masakatsu Funaki is a Japanese wrestler who co-founded Pancrase alongside Minoru Suzuki. Funaki and Suzuki spent time together as part of the New Japan Dojo in the late ’80s.
Unlike Suzuki, Funaki made fighting his priority for nearly two decades. Funaki competed for Pancrase until 2000. He later came out of retirement and competed in kickboxing promotion K-1 and MMA promotion Dream. In 2009, Funaki returned to professional wrestling. Today, Funaki is still struggling for various promotions in Japan.
5 Ken Cloverleaf
Pancrase’s first major success story was Ken Shamrock, who became the first fighter to be crowned the “King of Pancrase”.
Before competing in the first UFC event, Shamrock fought three times in Pancrase. At the first Pancrase show, Shamrock submitted Pancrase co-founder Masakatsu Funaki. Shamrock won his next two fights by submission before the first UFC event where he was submitted by Royce Gracie. Shamrock fought for both Pancrase and UFC until 1996. Overall, Shamrock denied 20 fights in Pancrase and lost only three times. He lost once to Funaki and twice to Pancrase’s other founder, Minoru Suzuki.
4 Traditional MMA
In the late ’90s, Pancrase changed its rules and began to follow the rules of traditional MMA organizations. Beginning in 1999, Pancrase began using rules similar to the PRIDE Fighting Championship, another major MMA promotion in Japan. Beginning in 2014, Pancrase adopted the unified rules of mixed martial arts, which are the rules of the UFC.
With the rule changes, Pancrase became similar to other MMA promotions around the world. The promotion now includes traditional weight classes with champions in each weight class. Pancrase now offers women’s MMA.
3 Famous Former Champions
As mentioned, Ken Shamrock was Pancrase’s first champion, but many other notable fighters have earned this honor.
Both of Pancrase’s founders, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, are former champions. Other legendary fighters like Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock and Josh Barnett were also former Kings of Pancrase. These fighters were the foundation of Pancrase’s early days and are known for having some of the biggest fights in the promotion. Other notable UFC graduates to become Pancrase champions include Ricardo Almeida and Nate Marquardt.
2 UFC Graduates
Many notable UFC alumni have spent time competing in the Pancrase ring. Former UFC champions and title contenders fought at Pancrase before competing in the world-famous Octagon.
Former UFC Middleweight Champion Evan Tanner fought numerous times in Pancrase before winning the 2005 UFC title. Former UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo appeared once in Pancrase in 2007 WEC and UFC. Former UFC title challengers Chael Sonnen and Nate Diaz also fought at Pancrase.
1 UFC fight pass
In 2015, Pancrase signed an exclusive streaming deal with UFC Fight Pass. Live Pancrase events as well as historic fights from the promotion can be viewed on the UFC streaming service.
To this day, Pancrase regularly hosts MMA events. Most recently, Pancrase 326 took place in Japan. Their next event is planned for the end of April. While Pancrase no longer has the prestige it had in the ’90s, the promotion is one of the top regional MMA companies in Japan and a place for fighters to show their worth in hopes of making it onto bigger stages in the future battle.
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