Pancrase or Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling is a sport wrestling/mixed martial arts organization founded in Japan in 1993 by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki.
Its founders were pro wrestlers with particular skill in the art of shoot wrestling and it began as essentially a professional wrestling promotion consisting of shoots rather than works, with a rule-set more similar to that of professional wrestling—closed-fists to the face were illegal and submission holds had to be broken when a competitor made it to the ropes—than those used in contemporary fighting organizations such as Shooto or the UFC. However, beginning in 1998, it began adopting a rule set more in line with other mixed martial arts organizations, with most fights transitioning to the new ruleset by 2000. The name Pancrase is taken from Pankration, a sport in the ancient Olympic games.
Per its custom, its champions are named King of Pancrase rather than the title of Champion.
In 1993 Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Yusuke Fuke and others from the Fujiwara Gumi wrestling promotion left that company, apparently in opposition to mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara cooperating with leagues like Universal Lucha Libre and W*ING, where showmanship was the rule. These men formed Pancrase, which would focus on pure shoot style wrestling with few gimmicks and no predetermined outcomes (though there are rumors that a handful of the earlier bouts were fixed, most notably Ken Shamrock versus Matt Hume and the first meeting between Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki). The first King Of Pancrase Open Weight champion was Ken Shamrock, famous for his exploits in the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit and who had previous experience in the Newborn UWF and Fujiwara Gumi. Over the years, Funaki and Suzuki took turns holding the title alongside other big names, such as Bas Rutten.
Today, Pancrase recognizes King of Pancrase titles in the super heavyweight, heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, and welterweight divisions, with plans to award new lightweight and featherweight champions in the future. The open weight title has been recently restored and is held by Josh Barnett, who also competes in PRIDE. Minoru Suzuki also has stopped competing for Pancrase and is currently performing in many Japanese pro-wrestling organizations.
King of Pancrase Title Holders
Former KOP Title Holders
Other notable fighters