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Pancrase rebuilding starts with new ownership

By Zach Arnold | June 1, 2012

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Big changes are coming to the zombie promotion that’s about to be revived.

SMASH, which was the company led by Mr. Masakazu Sakai that backed professional wrestling shows operated by Yoshihiro Tajiri, has taken over Pancrase. The SMASH wrestling shows were doing relatively well in Tokyo (at Tokyo Dome City Hall & Korakuen Hall) but there was a conflict between Tajiri and Sakai over the direction of business. Tajiri wanted to continue the path he was on (as a wrestling company) and Sakai didn’t (he wanted a mixture of wrestling & MMA fights). The end result was the termination of SMASH as a wrestling entity.

Which leads us to Smash taking over Pancrase. There was a press conference today where Mr. Sakai talked about the reconstruction of Pancrase. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of Pancrase’s existence and new ownership has a four-point plan of what they would like to get in motion by next year:

  1. Set up an official Pancrase USA office.
  2. Creative business relationships with top foreign MMA gyms.
  3. Introduce the cage as a standard (as opposed to the ring). The idea is to run three cage-only shows in 2013 to see what the fan reaction is. Using the cage is controversial in Japan because of the negative image that it presents in the eyes of TV networks & sponsors.
  4. Send fighters overseas for extended periods of time to train and come back to Japan.

Expect Pancrase, given the past history of Mr. Sakai, to have a relationship with DEEP (Shigeru Saeki) and other players on the grassroots level.

For an example of such cooperation, here’s a layout of the proposed Japan MMA licensing system between the two entities. The weight divisions proposed are: 93 kg/205 pounds, 83.9 kg (185 pounds), 77.1 kg (170 pounds), 70.3 kg (155 pounds), 65.8 kg (145 pounds), 61.5 kg (135 pounds), 57.5 kg (125 pounds), 54.4 kg (120 pounds). There’s four different amateur classifications: A Class Rule (head gear, glove, knee pad, leggers, Pancrase gate open tournament/amateur DEEP), B Class Rule (glove, knee pad, leggers, amateur Pancrase open tournament, one match pass), C Class Rule (amateur open catch wrestling tournament/DEEP grappling), and M Class Rule (amateur one-fight pass). Once you have your JML license and do well, then you are given a professional license by the two organizations.

Names such as Ryo Kawamura, Yoshinori Umeki, and Yuji Shimada will be involved.

Topics: Japan, Media, MMA, Pancrase, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

9 Responses to “Pancrase rebuilding starts with new ownership”

  1. Steve4192 says:


    It’s great to see Pancrase back on it’s feet and it’s great to see a Japanese promotion that is willing to adapt to new realities of the sport. Now if only someone would swoop in and clean house in Shooto.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Good for them. I hope that they can make it work.

    I take it that this means that Josh Barnett is no longer their “openweight” champion…a post he held for like 8 years even though he only fought twice for them I think.

  3. Jeff says:

    Great article Zach. Very interesting stuff. I agree with Steve that Shooto needs to be reorganized as well.

    Has DEEP signed on to this proposal or is this just the new Pancrase ownerships hope?

  4. JBrianM says:

    Why a USA office?

  5. Megatherium says:

    This is great news. I like the amatuer development setup.

    I’m not sure the cage will ever be accepted over in Japan though.

  6. frankp316 says:

    When SMASH opened a couple of years ago, it was supposed to have separate pro wrestling and MMA divisions. TAJIRI ran the pro wrestling and former PRIDE fighter Akira Shoji was supposed to run the MMA division. SMASH opened a dojo but never ran an MMA show. I don’t blame TAJIRI for not wanting MMA on SMASH shows. They can’t mix things up like they used to. I think Sakai is also involved in The Tenyru Project pro wrestling promotion. TAJIRI didn’t think much of that either. BTW, I think the PANCRASE USA talk is just talk.

  7. fd2 says:

    It’s really terrific to see a Japanese fed really investing in infrastructure rather than trying to pop a big rating short-term.

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