A chat with Bas Rutten

Since its inception in 1993, the UFC has revolutionized the fight industry. Started as a professional fighting organization, the UFC has evolved into a business where hybrid athletes are required to have mastered various disciplines, e.g., karate, jujitsu and wrestling. It’s the largest pay-per-view provider in the world. Every sport that has evolved to become wildly popular and lucrative has individuals that are credited for paving the way. Bas Rutten is one of the names that come to mind when people talk about legends of mixed martial arts (MMA). A true pioneer of the sport of MMA, Bas who has retired from fighting, has also established himself outside the ring. Find out what Bas had to say about MMA, his injuries, training, and working with stars like Kevin James on the hit movie, “Here Comes the Boom.”

Bullz-Eye: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview.

Bas Rutten: Oh no. Thank you for doing the interview. This is great.

Bullz-Eye: Well, for our audience at Bullz-Eye, I’d like you all to know that I’m talking with Bas Rutten, who many, including myself, consider to be one of the top MMA fighters of all time, an absolute legend and pioneer of the sport. Throughout his MMA career, he was known as a submission artist and devastating striker who perfected taking out opponents with body shots to the liver and open-hand strikes. The list of competitors he’s beaten reads like a list of who’s who in the world of MMA. Undefeated in his last 22 fights, he’s a former undefeated UFC heavyweight champion, a Muay Thai champion, and a three-time undefeated King of Pancrase.

As if all your accomplishments — and I haven’t even read them all, obviously — in the world of MMA weren’t enough, Bas has also made a name for himself outside the ring as an actor, host and television personality. Rutten can be seen co-starring with Kevin James and Selma Hayek in the feature film “Here Comes the Boom,” which, by the way Bas, I have to say that film was awesome.

Bas Rutten: Right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You come out with a happy feeling.

Bullz-Eye: My fiancé and I went to see it when it first came out, and I have to tell you, that was just an excellently well done film. The premise was awesome, and the fighting looked very realistic.

Bas Rutten: He did a good job. Kevin James, I know Kevin James for a long time, 16 years. I mean, pretty much right away when I came into the States. He had quite a different life at the time. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment that he shared with his brother. That was when the first season of “King of Queens” started. We became friends right away. And all these years, I’ve been doing a lot of projects with him and with his brother.

Bullz-Eye: Well, both my fiancé and I are into high levels of fitness and training. And when you see him jumping around, and moving about, even in that other film that you appeared in, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” we both commented how extremely athletic he is.

Bas Rutten: He really is. I came home from my first time training, and I told my wife, true story. I said, “He’s like a bear. He’s fast and he’s very powerful, and he picks up things really fast.” Great student, great man. Great guy And he was actually at my last fight that I had in 2006, when I made a comeback, he was there 80 percent of the time for my training.

Bullz-Eye: Oh, no kidding.

Bas Rutten: He was there in the same room pushing, pushing, and pushing me because when he was in my corner, people went, ‘Ah, it’s just a publicity stunt,’ but he was really there all the time.

Bullz-Eye: He sounds like a good guy.

Bas Rutten: Yeah, he’s a really good guy.

Bullz-Eye: Now, I know a lot of people would like to know, how are you doing after your neck surgery you had a few months ago?

Bas Rutten: Well, it started last week. Everything started coming back. I see my shoulder growing again. Everything is very light-weight. I use like 5 pound weight. I do bicep curls with 2 pounds. My daughters are laughing, but it’s slowly but surely, I see the muscle building back.

Bullz-Eye: Well, it sounds like you’re coming along all right. So I’m sure you’ve got to be happy with that.

Bas Rutten: Very happy. Plus, last week, they found out a solution to fix my knees, which I’m even more ecstatic about, because I’m in pain just walking stairs, getting up, sitting down, and all that stuff is pretty painful.

Bullz-Eye: Oh, you’re kidding.

Bas Rutten: And now by accident, I found somebody who actually can do it. They refurbish your knees, and you cannot have pain anymore, because everything is covered by metal.

Bullz-Eye: No kidding. So you’re not going to get knee replacements. They’re actually going to put metal on your knee?

Bas Rutten: Yeah, it’s losing cartilage on my knee caps. The rest of my knees are good.

Bullz-Eye: These injuries aren’t acute; they’re more from an accumulative effect of training?

Bas Rutten: Yeah, I think I really over did it a lot.

Bullz-Eye: Is there anything you would change now looking back on your training, or do you think that type of training you did was the reason you were so successful?

Bas Rutten: You know, it was the reason I think I was so successful, but as we work out, it was a fight with me. I would just really take everything to the extreme, 2 times a day, 10 times a week. And so the fight was really the easiest thing. But you know, I would focus more on protection. If you forgot your wraps, don’t spar. Get wraps first. Your ankles, make sure they’re always packed because it’s the little things. The knees, elbows and kicks over and over will find a target if you’re not protected and take its toll. And then more rest. Some people say if the doctor says take a month, take two months. That’s what I do right now, for the last few years. I advise really to every fighter, because they want to go too fast.

Bullz-Eye: Now, before we get into discussing some of your current projects you’ve got going on, I’d like to ask you a few questions concerning your MMA career, and MMA in general, if you don’t mind. Obviously, this past weekend, UFC 158, we had the Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz fight, and by the way, I know you probably agree this was an awesome fight card. I really thought both athletes, Pierre and Diaz, brought their top form. I still thought Pierre was going to win, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite that one-sided. Do you have any views on what you saw that Diaz might have lacked?

Bas Rutten: Well, on “Inside MMA,” I said, “What Diaz should do, if he would simply keep his left hand in front of his chin,” because everybody knows he’s (Pierre) going to jab constantly to your chin. Well, if you keep your left hand in front of your chin, it’s very simple, he can’t touch it. It’s really easy like that, which of course, they start mixing it up, then that will pull that hand away from the chin. Or I said he should start jabbing himself. And this, I didn’t expect, but when I read stats about Georges St-Pierre, he has a reach advantage over Diaz, which I never knew because it looks like Diaz has a longer reach than he has. But when I read that, I said, “Oh, Pierre beats him to the jab, because he’s got a longer reach.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I actually watched, rewatched your fight against Kevin Randleman, preparing for this interview… I wanted to make sure that I remembered some of your fights correctly. And when I was watching the Pierre Diaz fight, I was thinking to myself, “I thought Diaz got overpowered because of a strength difference.” Unlike in your fight, obviously Kevin Randleman was freakishly big and strong, but you were strong enough that you literally were able to score on your back, and counter him on your back, which it looked like Diaz just wasn’t able to do. In fact, Diaz got man-handled. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Bas Rutten: Yeah, well, that’s with reach. If you have longer reaches, then everything close by is hard for you to do, for impact. Now, I create distance all the time. You see me pushing away from them, so I get more space, and then I start hitting. I don’t believe in those little, stupid, tiny punches that don’t do anything, not even for distraction. I go for the big blows, and elbows to the top of the head.

Bullz-Eye: Right. Well, when you were throwing those elbows to the head, you literally cut him like three times in a row. hat was amazing how devastating those were.

Bas Rutten: Yeah, I heard from somebody who was talking to me. Oh, my ex-manager, or lawyer, at the time. He saw Kevin Randleman the next day, and he pulled his cap off, and he said he had over 50 staples in his head.

Bullz-Eye: Oh my god. Wow. Now during your career, obviously you have fought and defeated some extremely talented fighters, which is precisely why you’re considered one of the best MMA fighters ever. And I know that this is going to be a particularly tough question, but is there a fight, or a few fights, that stand out for you as being particularly proud of?

Bas Rutten: Well, the second fight against Kenny Shamrock, I shouldn’t have lost that. I trained four weeks to defend the knee bar, because I knew he was going to do that. I told Funaki from Japan, “Teach me to protect myself from that. I’m going to be fine for the rest.” He does it for four weeks, but if he would have told me, “You know, Bas, if you grab the leg, and he can’t step over your other leg, then there will never be a knee bar,” but he didn’t. He told me that he was going to slip over my hips with his foot, and then if I stopped that foot there, then I was going to be okay. But then in the fight, I was in that position. You actually see my hands already going to that spot, but then he threw his leg over the top of my head, so there was a different way to do it.

Now, I was not good at submissions at the time, because I had nobody really to train with. And that made me angry, and then when I came home, I started getting phone calls out to everybody about who wants to train with me? And I found this one 19 year-old kid, and that’s it. We just started teaching ourselves, watching tapes, and that was it. I never lost. I actually won my next 7 or 8 fights by submission right away. I was 24/7 busy with it in my mind. I was telling an interview. This is a true story. I would wake up my wife in the middle of the night, because I would dream a submission… would wake her up, put her in a submission, ask her where the pain was, write it down and bring it back to the gym the next day. It was the craziest thing ever. But again, I never lost again, and then the rematch against Funaki came. And that’s one of the ones I’m very proud of.

Bullz-Eye: The fight against Funaki was awesome. That was an excellent fight. Now, you were one of the first real successful strikers within MMA, unless I’m thinking of that era wrong, but you used an open hand when striking. And you’re obviously very successful with it. How did you come up with that, and what are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

Bas Rutten: Well, at Pancrase, that was actually the rule there. They fit these rules for the Japanese fighters. Japanese fighters are really good on the ground, and so they, and very good with leg locks. So they put us with shoes and shinguard. The shoes that would be really good for leg locks trust me. And the shinguards because of the impact, because we are strikers, and then open hand strikes. Open hands first of all, it will take more power away. At least that’s what they thought, but I used to fight like that as a bouncer, and second of all, with nothing on your hands, it’s easier to pull off submissions, rear-naked chokes and all that stuff.

But I was used to hitting with palm strikes, because I saw my buddies at the door getting broken hands all the time hitting the top of a head, and so I just thought I’m going to hit the palms. And I really, I hit with the bone. You know, when you pull your hand backwards with that bone at the wrist. That’s where…

Bullz-Eye: Oh, at the base of the hand?

Bas Rutten: And I would aim for underneath the ear. That’s it. It’s boom. So it’s a hard hit. And people start dropping. I would hit the back like that even. So like, the trick is, of course, it’s open hands to the face, but once you go to the body, it’s closed fists for the body shots. So you have to focus on that.

Bullz-Eye: So do you think that your style of striking, that should be used more in MMA today? Do you think they would be more successful with that?

Bas Rutten: Brock Lesnar did it by accident against Randy Couture. He threw that big overhead, and then touched Randy behind the ear, the back of the head. And then Junior dos Santos did it later on, and I think he was one of the first to start doing this on purpose. But I used to do this all the time. You want to hit from the side. The head is ready for impact from the front, not from the side. Look at Mike Tyson. His hooks were very short. I mean, he was already a small person, but his hooks would almost hit the back of the head with his hooks, and that’s what I would focus on too.

So to this day, I still don’t get it that people don’t use it. It’s legal. It’s very effective. Of course, if you’re in the guard, a palm strike will always have more power than a fist, for that simple fact that it has more travel distance.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I know with the fight with Kevin Randleman, when you were on your back and you were hitting him with the palm strikes, you could tell he was definitely getting hurt, and he would actually back up from you in the guard.

Bas Rutten: He told me later after the leg kick I gave him, he said that I was pretty much done. I really felt that one. And I just started to score. So I just let go, and then I started working.

Bullz-Eye: With all your experience in training and injuries and competition, what advice would you give up and coming MMA athletes?

Bas Rutten: Write everything down, I always say. If you do power and conditioning, write everything down. How many reps, how much weight, and just try to beat that every time you train. That’s what I did. Always pushing, always more. My running times, I would write everything down, and then the next time I would simply try to break it.

Bullz-Eye: That’s actually a good thing. That’s exactly what I do with a lot of the athletes I’ve trained, is always have a training journal. And it’s a very good motivator.

Now, the O2 Trainer… I’ve got to tell you. I ended up having one sent to me I believe you’ve developed and patented a product that has far-reaching applications beyond just building endurance for sports and things like that. I’m a professional firefighter, and I’ve used it for about two weeks, and can attest to you that the equipment that we wear as firefighters, while on emergency calls like house fires, is between 40 and 60 pounds. It has definitely improved my work performance. Are there other occupations or instances that you have found to benefit from your O2 trainer?

Bas Rutten: First of all, the one that’s very close and dear to my heart is asthma. Needless to say, I haven’t been training since the neck injury. I jumped on the bike a few times, but that shocks my neck also, so I stay away from it. In the meantime, my asthma starts coming back. I even started using my inhaler. And I think, “I’m so crazy. I’m preaching to everybody to use the O2 Trainer. Why don’t I simply do the breathing exercises that I tell everybody to do?” I swear on my family, I started 10 days ago, and I’m asthma-free. Not once have I used my inhaler.

I’m really going to start hitting the American Asthma Foundation; I want to send them 30 of those things. I want them to test them. Try it out, because it’s better than putting medication in your body. The O2 Trainer works almost from day one. I can guarantee you within a week of using it, people will not use their inhaler anymore.

Bullz-Eye: Wow. And it’s such a simple, inexpensive, yet powerful tool. When someone is using it, and they’re training for a sport or whatever, should they use it with both their weight training and endurance, or does that depend on their goal?

Bas Rutten: Yeah, I would use it just one time a day, four or five days a week. Actually, four times a week is good enough. You want to give your lungs time to recover, in order to get stronger, just like any other muscles, because now you’re training them with resistance. My new video is coming out today. It will explain this. There’s absolutely no other way. But nobody is training their lungs with resistance. And so preferably, to answer your question, conditioning workouts is the best time to use the O2 Trainer.

Bullz-Eye: Now, on your website, you mention breathing exercises. If you’re already using the O2 trainer during your workouts, are the breathing exercises necessary? And can you explain the proper way to do those?

Bas Rutten: Yeah, no, they are not necessary. I can’t train my body now, and that’s why I may as well train my lungs. You can do it really in 8 minutes. You do three sets of 12, and that’s it for the whole day. But the great thing about the O2 trainer, it forces you to breathe the correct way.

It forces you to breathe through your core, and that’s the trick. The most important thing, and this is so cool, because all the other competition (breathing devices), they’ve all been saying the O2 Trainer has no resistance while exhaling. Ah ha. They think they’re so cool. I have a video coming out today, and people are going to go, “Oh my god,” when they see it.

I came up with this video so people understand how lungs really work. And from today on, I hope… they told me it was going to be ready today. People are going to realize, “Oh my god. Yeah. It’s the only way to do it,” and that’s why I think I have such great success with the O2 Trainer, because it works the lungs correctly.

Bullz-Eye: Well, is there anything else currently going on with you that our audience should know about?

Bas Rutten: No, this is it. Big focus is of course on the O2 Trainer. Now we’re working a little bit more in the movies. And of course, every Friday, we’re still “Inside MMA Live,” on Access TV. Our weekly show, been doing it for almost seven years.

Bullz-Eye: It’s been on quite a while. That’s going well, and that’s good.

Bas Rutten: Yeah, it’s the highest rated show on the network.

Bullz-Eye: No kidding. I didn’t know that.

Bas Rutten: Yeah, all the way for six years. It’s really functional. We’re doing really well.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I know it’s an excellent show, o I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that it’s number one. But for our audience, for more information you can go to BasRutten.com or O2trainer.com. I encourage everyone to get the free newsletter with training tips from El Guapo himself, Bas Rutten. And Bas, I would like to thank you sincerely for taking the time for this interview. It’s been a pleasure and an honor.

Bas Rutten: I appreciate you very much, Thank you, take care.