Maximo Blanco (file photo) has given up his 154-pound Pancrase title. | Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
Pancrase’s lightweight throne is empty once more, and the successors are already queuing up.
The Japanese promotion announced Monday at a Tokyo press conference that Maximo Blanco has vacated his 154-pound “King of Pancrase” title. In a prepared statement, the 27-year-old Yoshida Dojo prospect cited his inability to defend his belt due to numerous injuries as the reason for his abdication. Blanco, a Sengoku standout, captured the title with a second-round technical knockout of Katsuya Inoue in August 2009, but has not competed for the promotion since.
Squaring off for the now-vacant belt on May 3 will be Koji Oishi and Daisuke “13” Hanazawa, Pancrase’s top- and second-ranked lightweights, respectively. The two have met twice before, with Oishi earning a two-round unanimous decision in May 2003 and a third-round knockout in April 2005.
Pancrase also revealed plans for its 2011 lightweight grand prix, an eight-man, single-elimination tournament which will run throughout the remainder of the year and will decide one lightweight title contender for 2012.
On one side of the bracket, once-beaten Sakaguchi Dojo representative Isao Kobayashi will welcome Shooto vet Yukinari “Hibiki” Tamura to the Pancrase ranks, while Zst mainstay Naoyuki Kotani meets Tomoyoshi Iwamiya.
The bracket’s other side features a matchup of ex-champ Katsuya Inoue and Nova Uniao Japan product Kota Okazawa, as well as 2008 Neo-Blood tournament finalist Hiroki “AB” Aoki taking on Paraestra Hachioji knockout artist Kazuki Tokudome.
All four quarterfinals -- each scheduled for three five-minute rounds -- will take place at the May 3 “Impressive Tour” stop in Tokyo’s Differ Ariake, with the semifinals slated for August 7 and the finals December 3.