Pancrase is a mixed martial arts promotion company founded in Japan in 1993 by professional wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. Pancrase is taken from Pankration, a sport in the ancient Olympic games. Suzuki and Funaki are particularly skilled in the art of catch wrestling and based the promotion on professional wrestling consisting of shoots rather than works. Per its custom, its champions are named King of Pancrase rather than the title of Champion.
The promotion had a rule-set more similar to that of professional wrestling than those used in contemporary fighting organizations such as Shooto. Just as in Japanese professional wrestling, closed-fisted punches to the head were illegal (however, close fisted punches to the body were allowed). Instead, a fighter had to strike to the head with a palm strike, and submission holds had to be broken when a competitor made it to the ropes. Rope breaks resulted in a lost point and a fighter would only be granted between 3 and 5 rope breaks before being disqualified. 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.
There have been repeated accusations that many Pancrase matches were "works", or predetermined. Prominent fighters within the organization such as Bas Rutten and Guy Mezger have adamantly denied these accusations. Mezger is quoted as saying: "There were not very many works (in Pancrase); maybe 4 or 5 total and most of them were before I was fighting for them. I hate when people say that there was so many works in Pancrase, they truly do not know what they are talking about."