With Eye on UFC, Marquardt Relinquishes KOP Belt

By Jordan Breen Oct 23, 2006
In Pancrase's 13-year history, the winds of change may have never blown harder. This year has brought many new champions in mixed martial arts, and few venues have seen a greater title turnover than one of the sport's most storied promotions in Pancrase.

Already in 2006, the championship status in four of Pancrase's divisions had changed, including the crowning of three new Kings of Pancrase — Kestutis Arbocius (Pictures), Daizo Ishige (Pictures) and Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) — in Yokohama this past August.

But the locus that the hybrid wrestlers once called home isn't yet free from their tempest of transformation. Pancrase announced that longtime organization veteran and current UFC competitor Nathan Marquardt (Pictures) has relinquished the 181-pound King of Pancrase belt.

The 27-year-old Marquardt told Pancrase's executive committee that he is currently dedicated to the UFC, where he is locked into an exclusive contract. As a result of Marquardt's desire to compete in the UFC and the exclusivity clause of his contract, he is obviously unable to fulfill his duties as King of Pancrase.

Pancrase executives indicated that the talks between the two parties were amicable, and the organization respects Marquardt's intentions while recognizing his contributions to their past.

While he has recently gone 3-0 in the UFC and emerged as a top contender to Anderson Silva (Anderson Silva' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures)'s 185-pound throne, Marquardt has spent the vast majority of his professional career in the confines of Pancrase, where he debuted nearly seven years ago. Marquardt has fought 20 times in the Pancrase ring, and was the first, third and fifth 181-pound King of Pancrase, last defending his title in May of 2005 against rival Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures) in their third encounter.

Pancrase wasted little time acting on Marquardt's championship resignation, revealing that the sixth 181-pound King of Pancrase will be crowned on December 2 at the Differ Ariake in Tokyo, when Marquardt's former foe Izuru Takeuchi (Pictures) meets freelancer Yuichi Nakanishi (Pictures).

The choice of championship competitors are of little surprise: earlier this month, the Pancrase executive revealed that in an effort to better reflect participation and success within the organization, that they would now adopt a more stringent, pro-Pancrase ideology in regard to their divisional rankings. Fighters who had not competed in Pancrase in the last 365 days and those fighters who had not expressed the desire to compete in Pancrase in the future were culled from the rankings.

Perhaps no division was greater impacted than Pancrase's 181-pound class, which was reduced to a mere three ranked competitors under the new Pancrase ranking guidelines. As of October 4, Takeuchi and Nakanishi were respectively ranked first and second, and have thus been chosen to vie for the vacant 181-pound throne in December.

Nakanishi was Pancrase's 181-pound Neo Blood Tournament champion in 2003, but has since been relatively inconspicuous among the Pancrase ranks. The freelance fighter has stayed afloat by taking recent draws against Pancrase regulars Yuji Hisamatsu (Pictures) and Kozo Urita (Pictures), but may find inspiration in his sudden fortune as he attempts to capture the vacant Pancrase crown.

Takeuchi has battled for the 181-pound King of Pancrase championship twice before, both times being defeated by Marquardt — his only losses in his four-year, 13-fight Pancrase tenure. A Combat Wrestling national champion coming off of a silver medal performance in the 180-pound division at the World Combat Sambo Championships earlier this month in Uzbekistan, Takeuchi will hope three is his lucky number, as he looks to bring another Pancrase championship home to Japan's "Sambo top team," SK Absolute.
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