Finally the official announcement has been made.
On June 1st Pancrase held a press conference in Tokyo and revealed that theynow have a new owner, and its going a pro-wrestling organization called SMASHheaded by Masakazu Sakai.
Well, technically, SMASH is not currently functioning as a pro-wrestlingpromotion.
Back in 2009 when a pro-wrestling promotion called HUSTLE got into thefinancial trouble, cancelled all four shows, Sakai, who was a "supremeadviser" of the promotion at the time, basically stood up and createdSMASH to rescue fighters and fans. SMASH signed many pro-wrestlers from HUSTLE,and also, provided free seats to all fans that were waiting for the money backfor the HUSTLE tickets they've already purchased.
Sakai is a business man / event producer who was raised in the orphanage. Afterworking as a salesman for the major insurance company, he made a fortune bycoming up with a way to "sell automobiles with no inventory by usingsatellite". He is currently the head of the company called Quantum JumpJapan and their main business is buying / selling automobiles for drivingschools across Japan.
Sakai is a big fan of the pro-wrestler Tiger Mask - which, in the comic bookstory, was also raised in the children's orphanage - and also admitted publiclythat he has a high respect for MMA fighter Kazushi Sakuraba.
SMASH was a success.
He teamed up with a long-time WWE star TAJIRI, began the promotion in March2009 and in November of the same year, SMASH was so popular that they had noproblem doing a sell-out show at the JCB Hall (TDC Hall). In fact, from SMASH 1to SMASH 24, the promotion did a twenty-four straight sold out shows, and someJapanese pro-wrestling media even called SMASH as the 'Only truly successfulpro-wrestling organization in Japan".
However in February of this year, all of sudden, Sakai announced that he is nolonger in partnership with TAJIRI and SMASH show on February 19th at the TDCHall became their last collaboration.
No one really knows what happened between Sakai and TAJIRI but now allpro-wrestlers are gone from SMASH, and apparently Sakai decided to get into MMAbusiness.
Technically this is not the first time Sakai got involved with MMA. He became"the commissioner" of JML (Japan MMA League) in 2011 and since thenbasically SMASH has been co-sponsoring and co-operating this MMA league for theup and coming fighters with another MMA promotion - DEEP.
And now, SMASH basically stepped up from just being "thecommissioner", opened their own MMA division, and purchased Pancrase fromDon Quijote.
However its not like SMASH is just concentrating on MMA.
They still continue with their pro-wrestling division and they are going topromote Tenryu Project, another pro-wrestling promotion headed by a popularwrestler Genichiro Tenryu.
In addition, Pancrase's amateur show is now merged with JML and will beoperated by DEEP.
And of course, Pancrase will, continued to be managed by the same people, their"playing manager" Ryo Kawamura, general manager Yasushi Sakmoto - whohas been working for Pancrase for the longest time - and the head refereeYoshinori Umeki.
On top of this, apparently, they have appointed Ken Shamrock to be their"chairperson" and opening their office in the US, and looking toestablish relationship with MMA academies in the North America.
Sounds like they are moving towards "World Standard" which is theirslogan but how is Pancrase going to make a leap as a MMA promotion? Are theygoing to aggressively penetrate into the overseas market? Is this mean they aregoing to brand "Pancrase" in the US? Or just concentrate ondomestic market?
All these questions are still remained to be answered but its always nice tosee another successful business man coming into the MMA industry.
Let's hope Sakai will provide something new to the Japanese MMA and will stayin this industry for a long time.
Reportby Shu Hirata