clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The origins, history and rules from the early days of Pancrase circa 1993

The origins, history and rules from the early days of Pancrase circa 1993. A quick overview for my Pancrase series.

Esther Lin

Bloody Elbow's own, T.P. Grant, has already wrote some about Pancrase, which you can find in his MMA Origins series as well as Nate Wilcox's 20-part MMA History series

I have started my own series watching the beginning of Pancrase intertwining with the beginnings of the UFC. You can see my thoughts and watch all the fights of the first Pancrase event here.

Not many know this, but Pancrase had hosted 4 "MMA" events before the UFC even had their first. Pancrase was host of some of the best fighters in the world at the time. This was 1993.

Pancrase Origins

via Dave Meltzer:

October 4, 1992, Tokyo Dome: At a pro wrestling event, a rare legitimate match was booked where Wayne Shamrock, as Ken was known in Japan, faced world kickboxing champion Don Nakaya Nielsen. Shamrock took Nielsen down immediately and submitted him with [a modified keylock/americana from half guard] in 45 seconds. The success of this match made young pro wrestlers Shamrock, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki question what they had been told since breaking into predetermined wrestling: that nobody would ever pay to see real matches.

September 21, 1993, Tokyo: Shamrock, Funaki and Suzuki spearheaded a group of pro wrestlers and decided to abandon everything people had told them about real matches not being marketable. They formed a promotion called Pancrase, named by '60s wrestling star Karl Gotch after the sport of Pankration

Emphasis and links mine.

Often times the question of legitimacy and 'worked' matches arises.

Ken Shamrock revealed via The MMA Encyclopedia by Jonathan Snowden, "You didn’t want to go out there and just destroy them. You want to go out there and maybe give some encouragement to try harder next time."

More from the MMA Encylopedia:

[Masakazu] Funaki realized quickly that the key to the promotion’s survival was the creation of new stars. As a pro wrestler, he understood that it took a star to make a star. With that philosophy is mind, Funaki and other stalwarts like [Ken] Shamrock and [Minoru] Suzuki would sometimes intentionally lose matches to lesser opponents in an attempt to make them big-time players.

It is very important to note, however, many of the matches were not works. I will do my best to point out the potentially/rumored to be worked fights.

The Rules:


- No elbows to the head

- No closed fisted strikes to the head (open palm only)

- A 10 count is used for knockdowns and the fighter knocked down is deducted one point


- No ground strikes to the head was a "gentlemen's agreement" (shout out KJ Gould)

- Ground work that is too close to the ropes is stood back on the feet

- Anytime if a fighter is able to get a hold of the ropes, the fight is stood back up and the fighter that grabbed the rope is deducted one point

- This rope grabbing is called an "escape"

How Fights End

- Any combination of losing five points is a loss. It can be two knockdowns and three "escapes" or four knockdowns and one escape.

- Decisions are rendered by "loss points". Whoever has loss less points is awarded the decision. So, theoretically you could knock your opponent down three times, but if you used four escapes, you would lose the decision

Other stuff

- You will often see fighters wear shin guards and knee pads

- No rounds, except on rare occasions

- Time limits were normally 15 minutes, 30 minutes for title fight

All the other rules are the same as the ones in the UFC today.

Stay tuned for the next addition coming soon... or you can also bookmark the series stream right here