Pancrase Inc. is a mixed martial arts promotion company founded in Japan in 1993 by professional wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki.
The name was based on pankration, a fighting sport in the Ancient Olympic Games. Suzuki and Funaki practised catch wrestling. They based the promotion and its rules on professional wrestling. The promotion's champions were called "King of Pancrase".
The rules allowed closed-fisted punches, except to the head, and palm strikes to the head. A wrestler must break a submission hold when the opponent reaches the ropes, but a wrestler who claims a rope break forfeits a point. A wrestler who claims a specified number of rope breaks was disqualified. From 1998 to 2000, the promotion changed its rules to resemble other mixed martial arts promotions.
Pancrase participant Guy Mezger said that "there was not very many works . Maybe 4 or 5 total and most of them were before I was fighting for them. I hate when people say that there was so many works in Pancrase, they truly do not know what they are talking about".
Beginning in 2007, Pancrase: Legends of Mixed Martial Arts aired weekly on ImaginAsian TV. The network folded in 2011.
In 2008, the Fight Network began airing Pancrase events in Canada and the U.K.
In 2015, Pancrase signed an exclusive, long-term deal to be streamed live and exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. Fight Pass also added all of Pancrase's historical fights to its library on a video-on-demand basis.


Establishment and first event

In 1993, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Ken Shamrock, Takaku Fuke, and others from the shoot-style Fujiwara Gumi wrestling promotion left the company, due to Yoshiaki Fujiwara's decision to cooperate with the likes of Universal Lucha Libre and W*ING and favoring showmanship over in-ring work. As suggested by Karl Gotch, Pancrase was formed by Funaki, Suzuki and Fuke, and the promotion would focus on pure shoot-style wrestling with limited gimmicks and no predetermined outcomes.
Funaki and Suzuki were students of wrestler Antonio Inoki. They were inspired by the 1976 Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki event that pit a boxer against a wrestler.
On May 16, 1993, they established World Pancrase Create Inc. with the capital of 30,000,000 Japanese yen. Masami Ozaki was chosen for its executive president at that time, and the head office was located in the district of Minamiazabu in Minato ward in Tokyo.
On September 21, 1993, Pancrase promoted their first event at Tokyo Bay NK Hall. All the matches were finished with knockout and submission.

Early era

The first King Of Pancrase Open Weight champion was Ken Shamrock, who had previous experience in the newborn UWF and Fujiwara Gumi. Over the years, Funaki and Suzuki held the title alongside other big names, such as Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock and Guy Mezger.
Pancrase now recognizes King of Pancrase titles in the super heavyweight, heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight divisions, and there are plans to award new lightweight and featherweight champions in the future. The open weight title was recently restored and is currently held by Josh Barnett, who formerly competed in PRIDE and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Minoru Suzuki no longer competes for Pancrase, as he returned to regular professional wrestling in 2003 as a freelancer, but he primarily competes in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Change of management

In May 2008, "Pancrase Inc." was established as a new management company for Pancrase, and WPC alienated Pancrase Inc. their all of business as on May 27, 2008. When Pancrase Inc. was established, Yasushi Sakamoto, a managing director of WPC, was installed as the executive president.
On October 14, 2008, Pancrase Inc. moved its office to Nishi Ikebukuro in the ward of Toshima in Tokyo.
In September 2009, Pancrase Inc. moved its office from Nishi Ikebukuro to Aobadai in ward of Meguro in Tokyo, and moved again to Kameido in the ward of Koto.
On October 1, 2010, Ryo Kawamura, who was the current mixed martial artist was installed as the executive president. Yasushi Sakamoto, the former president, had become a managing director.
Kawamura held a press conference in Yokohama, Kanagawa, on October 22, and explained about restructuring and announced that "Commission Council" had been established as a third party
On June 1, 2012, Pancrase announced that the promotion had been sold to Masakazu Sakai and his Smash organization, with Sakai taking over as the new president and his partner Yuji Shimada as the event producer of the promotion. As part of the reconstruction of Pancrase, the new owners intend to replace rings with cages, holding events to test the new format in 2013.
Pancrase 257 on March 30, 2014, was the last event where Pancrase used a ring, and by Pancrase 258 on May 11, 2014, Pancrase adopted the decagon or the ten-sided cage of their American partners World Series of Fighting.

Pancrase Korea

Pancrase Korea is the South Korean subsidiary of the Pancrase Inc. and held several events from 2007 to 2010. The first Pancrase Korea event was an amateur one held on March 10, 2007, in Busan and the last one was the semi-professional Neo-Blood Tournament 2 & Hybrid Challenge 12 held on September 12, 2010, in Seoul.


Old rules

Aside from the traditional grappling rules the rules were formerly as follows:
After the, Pancrase began to use a ruleset similar to that of Pride FC, but prohibits knees to the head of grounded opponents.
In May 2014, Pancrase adopted the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports rules, better known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

Weight classes

Current Pancrase champions (King and Queen of Pancrase)

The current weight division system of Pancrase is based upon the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts since December 4, 2007. At this time, Pancrase also announced establishment of Flyweight and Bantamweight, and abolition of Super heavyweight. On March 18, 2011, Pancrase restructured their weight classes adding several more lower weight classes. In addition, they introduced the Queen Of Pancrase title which will be used for women's fights in the future.

Former KOP Title Holders