Pancrase is taking heat and being accused of playing favorites after a controversial last minute rule change was made for their Queen of Pancrase title bout this past weekend.
During the finals of their women's bantamweight tournament at Pancrase - Progress Tour 14, Japanese fighter, Rin Nakai (13-0-1) took on Danielle West (4-5) in a rematch of last year's bout which ended in a split draw. The unbeaten Japanese star went on to win a decision to become the Queen of Pancrase, but it was without controversy as the rules were apparently changed on the last minute.
West missed weight a day earlier by roughly 1 kg, and instead of deducting a percentage of the purse or cancelling the fight altogether, this has apparently led to a few yet significant changes in the rule set. Here's fellow female MMA fighter, Aisling Daly talking about the fight:
Danielle's treatment before the fight was ridiculous. Forcing her to cut water weight on the day of the fight, also, the rules were unfair. If there are no chokes / knees allowed, this should apply to both fighters, not just one. A no contest for this would be the fairest thing after this farce.
Rin was allowed to knee, which Danielle discovered mid fight while being knee'd in the face by Rin. It's poor treatment. Ultimately Danielle missed weight by 1 kg. There have been far bigger misses with little or no penalty... either take the fight or don't.
It should have been standard missed-weight procedure. Either you don't take the fight full stop, or you agree it's a non-title fight but same rule set. It must be horrible to be on your way to the venue and still not know if you're fighting or not. Everything should have been set in stone at the weigh ins.
I was speaking to Danielle and that was what she said. I don't think poor communication can be an excuse for this. It's a promoter's responsibility to make sure foreign fighters are entirely informed.
Celine Haga also has more:
(They) wouldn't even allow her to use her entrance music. They played mind games with her the whole day of the weigh-in -- Telling her the fight was not going to happen, asking her to weigh in at the same as her weight on fight day, not showing up with a translator at the weigh-in as they said they would, not letting her fight with the same rules.
No chokes, no knees. Nakai's game plan was one thing, takedowns! So no danger for shooting or clinching.
After the fight, (they kept) danielle in a room for 1 hour or more, telling her she did a bad fight, and trying to make her pay $1000 for not making weight. This is the worst thing I've seen from any promotion.
Finally, West herself gave her own account on the situation:
Even if I had knocked her out the fight would have been a draw. Apparently they changed the rules before the fight when that dude made his announcement. He was saying that if I won, the fight would be ruled a draw or a no contest and the title would remain vacant. There was no scenario where I was able to officially win the fight or get the title so I literally fought a losing battle.
I was also told before the fight I was not allowed to throw knees or attempt any choke submissions since I was 1kg over the agreed weight. In the fight you can see me complain to the ref that she was using knees and this was because we were under the impression that the knees and chokes ban were for both fighters, and was informed during the fight the ban was for me only.
I was responsible for making weight and f***ed up weighing in 1kg over. I accept this as my mistake and my responsibility, though the treatment I received from the promotion and its affiliates in response to this was reprehensible in its aggressive frank attempt to secure a win for their fighter. It prejudiced the entire match and outcome and leaves a blight on the sport in Japan as far as I am concerned.
I can no longer afford to compete financially and after this last outing, fail to see any value in the emotional cost of the camps and hassles with promoters either. I am finished with trying to source revenue to cover training and physio costs, pouring so much time and energy into training when I could be spending it with loved ones or on other pursuits where I am not going to be set up to fail in order to promote an opponent.
It seems to me that not only did the rule change tip the scales heavily in favor of one participant, but it also unnecessarily risked the other fighter's well being by not clearly informing the camp about it. It severely affects their game plan, and more importantly, this sudden change also placed them in a dangerous situation where they can absorb shots they weren't expecting to be allowed in competition.
There's obviously two sides to every story, but whether it was intentional or not, it seems pretty clear that there's a huge lack of communication on this whole thing. Surprising, as it's coming from a long running promotion like Pancrase, who definitely should've known and acted much better on the given scenario.
You can watch the controversial championship fight below: