Rin Nakai defeated Danielle West by Decision over the weekend to become the Athena Champion of Pancrase, but the bigger story to many is how Danielle was treated by the organization. Danielle missed weight before the fight and was not able to make weight. As a result, the moves she could use were restricted (no knees or guillotine chokes) and even if she won the fight, she would not be crowned champion. This has turned into a controversy and I noticed that only one side of the story has been told. So let’s take a look at some aspects that haven’t been discussed yet.
On not being able to become champion if she won the fight:
In the Pancrase Rule Book it states:
“In the situation that a fighter does not pass at the official weigh-in or the second weigh-in, as a general rule they will be disqualified.”
So if this had been a normal fight, Danielle would have been disqualified. However there is a stipulation for title matches that states:
“In the situation that a fighter cannot pass the official weigh-in, in the case of a title match, the fighter will not be able to win the title.”
(This of course is not one-sided. The rule-book goes onto say that if the champion does not make weight, then they will be stripped of their title.)
So Pancrase did the right thing, according to their rule book on this incident. West missed weight, the fight was a title fight, so she lost the ability to win the title.
Now onto the stipulations added to the fight, which prohibited West from using knees and guillotine chokes. While adding a stipulation like this is almost unheard of in the States, it is fairly common procedure in Japan. Earlier this year, Mizuki Inoue was targeted to face Mina in a Shoot Boxing match. The winner of the match would go onto compete in the Girl’s S-Cup for the championship. Mina was not able to make weight. At first, Shoot Boxing wanted to disqualify Mina but Mizuki intervened and said she wanted the fight. Shoot Boxing then wanted to have Mina wear heavier more padded gloves during the fight but Mizuki intervened again. In the end, Mina was given two red cards at the beginning of the fight, making a victory by decision nearly impossible. The stipulation was also added that even if Mina won, she would not advance to the S-Cup. Mizuki would automatically advance. The limitation of knees also reminds me of Minowa. When Minowa fought several times under the DREAM banner against larger opponents, they were not allowed to knee him to the head while he was on the ground.
The only real problem and mistake that seems to have taken place during this whole situation was that of communication. The problem is that Danielle West did not understand what was going on. She was left in the dark for most of the situation and didn’t fully understand what she was told.
Here is Danielle West’s account of the incident:
“Even if I had knocked her out the fight would have been a draw. Apparently they changed the rules before the fight when that dude made his announcement. He was saying that if I won, the fight would be ruled a draw or a no contest and the title would remain vacant. There was no scenario where I was able to officially win the fight or get the title so I literally fought a losing battle.
I was also told before the fight I was not allowed to throw knees or attempt any choke submissions since I was 1kg over the agreed weight. In the fight you can see me complain to the ref that she was using knees and this was because we were under the impression that the knees and chokes ban were for both fighters, and was informed during the fight the ban was for me only.
I was responsible for making weight and f***ed up weighing in 1kg over. I accept this as my mistake and my responsibility, though the treatment I received from the promotion and its affiliates in response to this was reprehensible in its aggressive frank attempt to secure a win for their fighter. It prejudiced the entire match and outcome and leaves a blight on the sport in Japan as far as I am concerned.
I can no longer afford to compete financially and after this last outing, fail to see any value in the emotional cost of the camps and hassles with promoters either. I am finished with trying to source revenue to cover training and physio costs, pouring so much time and energy into training when I could be spending it with loved ones or on other pursuits where I am not going to be set up to fail in order to promote an opponent.”
Japanese fighter V.V Mei, who was brought into translate for Danielle West, posted on her blog:
“Going on 15 minutes of sleep, I translated the over-weight Danielle’s excuses and Pancrase’s anger.
The brashness/shamefulness of non-Japanese is amazing
Anyhow, to Nakai who became the champion, congratulations”
I was later told by her, that since West was over-weight, Pancrase added the stipulations to keep the fight fair. This makes since as even though West over-weighed by over 1kg at the official weigh-in, word is that she weighed-in over 7kg at the second weigh-in.
Hopefully both Pancrase and West learn from this experience. The blame does not fall on one party. In one regard it’s West fault for missing weight and her prerogative to accept a fight. On another regard, Pancrase needs to do a better job communicating with their non-Japanese speaking fighters to make sure that they completely understand what is going on. Also, hopefully Danielle keeps on fighting and does not choose to retire. To retire on such a negative moment would be a shame. I for one, love watching her fight.