Mei Yamaguchi Joins Pancrase Women's Atomweight Title TournamentThe lineup is now complete for the inaugural four-woman Atomweight Queen of Pancrase title tournament, which begins on December 24th at Pancrase 340 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. Former Valkyrie and Deep Jewels champ “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi was announced as the final participant today.

Yamaguchi has been competing professionally in MMA for more than 16 years, and she is one of Japan’s most accomplished female fighters in the sport’s history. In 2011, Yamaguchi was a part of Pancrase’s first female main event, and she now makes her return in hopes of winning another title.


The first three competitors in the atomweight title tournament were announced this past month, but the final spot remained open until the addition of Yamaguchi (21-15-1) today. The well-rounded veteran has faced nearly every top-ranked atomweight and strawweight in Asia during her career, and she already holds victories over fellow tournament participants Satomi Takano and Zenny Huang (twice).

Yamaguchi first made a name for herself in Greatest Common Multiple’s all-female promotion, Valkyrie, where she became 115-pound champion in February 2010 with a shocking first-round submission win over the heavily favoured Yuka Tsuji. After Valkyrie’s closure, Yamaguchi made two appearances for Pancrase including in the historic main event in April 2011. She then competed internationally several times before ultimately capturing her second title – this time at 105 pounds – by winning the Deep Jewels Atomweight Grand Prix in May 2015. It was in the finals of that tournament that Yamaguchi scored her victory over Takano, which came via second-round TKO.

Following the Deep Jewels title win, Yamaguchi moved on to ONE Championship and twice competed for the promotion’s 115-pound women’s title. She dropped contentious five-round decisions to Angela Lee on both occasions, but remained a top contender for ONE until 2020. After three decision defeats, Yamaguchi departed and returned back to Japan. She most recently competed for Rizin Fighting Federation in April, but came out on the wrong end of a decision against Kanna Asakura.

Yamaguchi has already branched out to other opportunities within combat sports, and has worked as an announcer for multiple promotions including Gladiator and RISE, but she views this tournament as a chance to add one more championship to her impressive résumé and spoke about her choice to join the lineup during a press conference today.

“There was a spot open in this tournament and that reminded me of when I fought before for Pancrase,” Yamaguchi said. “When I fought ‘Windy’ [Tomomi Sunaba], it was the first time that Pancrase had had a women’s main event. That was soon after the [Tōhoku] earthquake, and many events had been cancelled, but Pancrase continued and I respected that. Nowadays, women have more opportunities than back then, but this tournament still means a lot to me. Pancrase has a rich history.

“I fought Satomi and Zenny before, but I have not faced Sayako [Fujita],” Yamaguchi continued. “They are good fighters, and will bring new techniques now, so it should be fun. Zenny has improved a lot and I know that Satomi is determined not to lose. Sayako looks like she has a very strong body. I still have good stamina and I need to know if it’s my time to stop. I will fight to win, but if I lose I will retire.”

Pancrase 340 takes place on December 24th at Yokohama Budokan in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. Semi-final matchups for the atomweight tournament will be determined at a later date.