Masakatsu Funaki: A Journey Through Martial Arts

Masakatsu Funaki, born Masaharu Funaki on March 13, 1969, is a name that resonates with respect and admiration in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) and professional wrestling. His career spans decades, and his influence is felt across multiple disciplines of combat sports.

Funaki’s journey into the world of martial arts began at an early age. The son of a movie theater owner, he was exposed to martial arts films, idolizing Bruce Lee and eagerly watching the action unfold on the big screen. This early exposure sparked a passion that would shape his life and career.

In 1985, Funaki embarked on his professional wrestling career, wrestling in All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. However, his true calling was in the realm of MMA. In 1993, he co-founded Pancrase, one of the first MMA organizations, with fellow professional wrestler Minoru Suzuki. Pancrase was a groundbreaking venture that combined elements of professional wrestling with real, non-rehearsed combat, creating a new form of entertainment that captivated audiences.

Funaki’s MMA career was marked by significant victories and impressive stats. He defeated notable fighters such as Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, and Minoru Suzuki. His record boasts 40 wins, with 34 by submission, showcasing his exceptional grappling skills. He was ranked as the #1 mixed martial artist in the world for the years 1996 and 1997, and a top 4 pound-for-pound fighter from 1993 to 1998.

In addition to his fighting career, Funaki was a key figure in promoting Pancrase. He was not only the organization’s co-founder but also one of its most successful fighters. His success in the ring and his charismatic personality made him a star, earning him the moniker “the golden boy” of Pancrase.

Funaki’s influence extended beyond Japan. Pancrase inspired the creation of other MMA organizations, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and PRIDE Fighting Championships. His contribution to the sport of MMA is immeasurable, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of fighters.

In recent years, Funaki returned to professional wrestling, working for Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he held the GHC National Championship. His career has come full circle, from professional wrestling to MMA, and back to professional wrestling, demonstrating his versatility and passion for combat sports.

In conclusion, Masakatsu Funaki’s career is a testament to his dedication, skill, and love for martial arts. From his early days as a professional wrestler to his groundbreaking work in MMA, Funaki has left an indelible mark on the world of combat sports. His journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring fighters and fans alike, reminding us all of the power of passion and perseverance.


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