This is a huge step up for the promotion considering how they've pulled out of Korakuen Hall few years ago. Right now, their home base is, an approximately, 1,000 seat, Differ Ariake, but for this special show, Pancrase is going to 5,000 plus seats gymnasium by Shin Yokohama station.
Last week the promotion announced very first fight of the show, and its going to be a lightweight bout between Yukio Sakaguchi and Takefumi Ito from Pancrase-ism. Sakaguchi retired from sport back in 2010 but apparently he has made a decision to come back to MMA.
Not many media in North America discusses about Sakaguchi and his team, Sakaguchi Dojo, but I would have to say this is a very special case in the Japanese MMA.
When most MMA shows and academies are not doing so well, Sakaguchi's team is very stable. Although Sakaguchi himself is far from being Japan's top MMA fighters he was able to build his team from scratch. And that is, partly, because of his family. His father, Seiji Sakaguchi, is a former Judo national champ turned pro-wreslter. After the retirement, he served as vice-president, and eventually, CEO of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. His brother is Kenji Sakaguchi, a very popular Japanese actor. So, he had good connections and back-ups to begin with, and also, obviously, Sakaguchi himself is pretty good at running gym, selling tickets, discovering and raising MMA fighters.
What's very interesting about Sakaguchi's case is, his team is so stable therefore his fighters are not really looking to get an opportunity outside Japan. For example, one of his students is the current King of Pancrase IASO who has pro MMA record of 13-1-4. At age 24, needless to say, he has a pretty good chance of getting offers from both UFC and Bellator MMA but he can afford to not do that right now. In Japan, as a champion of Pancrase, he can fight quite often. As an instructor at the gym he can get a stable income. Even though both purse and fee he makes from teaching may not be so great, as a 24-year old, in a long run, it may be better for him to build record more, perhaps up to, like 20-1, or even 30-1 fighting in Japan where everything is very familiar with. Then, think about crossing a Pacific Ocean. Right now, he can afford to not rush into going overseas. I don't know if this is a right decision for ISAO but the point here is, fighters from Sakaguchi's team can afford to do this. That is why Sakaguchi's team is very different from any other MMA teams in Japan.
His opponent Ito has been around for a long time.
With 82 pro fights in his resume, really, no introduction necessary for the Japanese MMA fans. He only won once since 2010 but Ito is the super veteran of Pancrase, and Sakaguchi is mediocre but can sell tons of tickets, so its a fair match-up and also, a good way to start an anniversary show.
PANCRASE 252 - 20th ANNIVERSARY
Sunday, at September 29th, 2013
At Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, Kanagawa, Japan
Doors Open - TBA
Fight Starts - TBA
Confirmed Cards (Subject to Change):
1st Match - Lightweight Bout 5 min / 2R
Takafumi Ito (Japan / Pancrase-ism) vs Yukio Sakaguchi (Japan / Sakaguchi Dojo)
Going on sale July 27th.
Detail - TBA
Report by Shu Hirata
Photo courtesy of Bout Review (www.boutreview.com)