For those attempting to walk the ever line-moving journalistic path, objectivity remains the tried and true formula. Even in commentaries, are they objective or is there our personal agenda blurring the attempted point the reader must ask. In this space over the years agree or disagree the intent has always been to be fair and though it is sometimes difficult to set aside passion, disgust, anger, celebration or any emotion, with limited bias this has been regularly achieved.
Not this week. It is totally personal because this column and this week is all about Bas Rutten. Not only the man I work with on Inside MMA, but someone beyond a mere friend, he’s family. My family considers him family and vice versa. We are overjoyed that he is being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame this weekend.
We first met in 2006 at his gym when he was coaching the Los Angeles Anacondas of the International Fight League and there was immediate chemistry. I learned (and still do) so much about the sport from him while watching training sessions and then when he joined me in the broadcast booth for the fights later on. I am not the only one who has sought his opinion. Many times before and after our shows to this day, champions, former champs, and rising stars want to know what Bas thinks about virtually everything from match ups, styles, techniques and history of the growth of MMA.
It is appropriate that Bas enters as a pioneer in the UFC Hall. He burst onto the international scene in the early ’90’s in the Pancrase organization in Japan. Being the visionary he was/is, he knew to solidify his legacy even after being the King of Pancrase and defeating a who’s who in the sport at that time, that he would have to come to the U.S. and win a UFC belt. He debuted at UFC 18 January 8, 1999 appropriately winning with a TKO and fulfilled his dream at UFC 20 May 7, 1999 defeating Kevin Randleman to become the heavyweight champion.
For that fight he actually had to drink water to get above 200 pounds at the weigh in. Who does that? Only the unique Bas who had planned to drop to the more natural light heavyweight to continue his UFC career, but injuries were the only opponent to stop him. Being Bas there was no time to dwell on what could be, his focused shifted to coaching, acting, and eventually TV commentary succeeding at all.
In those pre-Zuffa still in very much fledgling stages, Bas was the perfect conduit in attracting new fans and reinvigorating the faithful. There was that style, that charisma.
A striker with such power, it can still be argued none has been better. Flamboyant with a laser precision as a combatant who literally sprang into a toe touching exuberance after a win. Bas mesmerized all of us, there was something wonderfully contagious, a tough as they come man with a quality of joy, unafraid to savor it as it happens. For many fans, Bas was their introduction to MMA and the UFC.
It is not though with bias I maintain if there was a Mount Rushmore for MMA Bas would be up there, the other three can be debated. His dominance had no rivals, closing out his career with a 22 fight unbeaten streak. No debate to the bottom line he was as vicious and accurate a striker as the sport has seen. The outstanding research from Fight Metric Statistics backs this up. According to them no striker in history in any organization has matched Bas’ astounding 70.6% accuracy.
He was never knocked down and though he never, ever attempted a takedown he recorded 15 submission wins. Again who else but Bas could do that?
As dominant as Anderson Silva was and Ronda Rousey is, or any fighter in any stretch of time, it can be argued none has ever been better than Bas in his prime.
When another man I consider family, executive producer Darrell Ewalt, called to tell me in 2007 Mark Cuban was starting a weekly MMA show that Darrell was putting together and wanted me to host, he mentioned in the next breath that I would be working with Bas. Deal done on the spot. That Ron Kruck, yet another “family” member, was the intrepid reporter, it all fell into place. We all thrived in being in the orbit of Planet “El Guapo” and I know in this case I can speak for Darrell and Ron, producer Mike Ricci and the rest of the crew about how excited we are this week more than any other. Yes, unabashedly it is a Bas love fest.
We have traveled half way around the world together the original quartet of Darrell, Bas, Ron and I, and laughed and enjoyed every moment. Even when once in Tokyo we pointed to a picture on the menu that resembled a chicken nugget of sorts. Turns out it was chicken bones and cartilage that was deep fried and none of us felt rude in spitting it into the napkin immediately and questioning the other about the decision to order.
It was also there that Bas tricked Darrell by showing him how to toughen his fist by pounding the table. The lightning fast pro fighter’s hand actually slapping it with his fingers, and then just as quickly balling his fist under the table and presto in front of us again. Darrell rapped his knuckles several times square against the table until they were red with visible swelling. Bas couldn’t hold back any longer, showing Darrell the trick to it, although I must say our executive producer has the toughest right hand in the TV world.
Standing on this foot and a half ledge that was generously considered a patio, some 30 stories off the ground smoking cigars outside of the non-smoking room, Bas looked straight down at nothing below but a parking lot, turned to me saying “Kinda high up aren’t we? Probably die if we fell.” Why did I even think this was a smart idea instead of taking five minutes to get on the elevator down to ground safety? Because in this vortex of a person it is easy to get swept up in the spontaneity, safety and consequences come later and Bas does seem invincible.
With all the stats and the stories of dominance as a fighter it is the person that has always amazed me most.
We were at an amusement park with his family and Bas was buying ice cream. The man waiting on him screamed with delight when he approached. “Bas I love you. You’re the greatest. I’ve seen every one of your fights.” When Bas pulled out his credit card to pay, the man asked for some identification…and then an autograph. Most would be upset , Bas smiled broadly at the irony, understanding the guy was doing his job. There are no little people in Bas’ world, he has much more patience with them than any opponent felt.
He is as great of an ambassador for the sport devoting time and his boundless energy to talk to fans, encourage fighters, and root for the small organizations to achieve success. He always has time for the crew on Inside MMA no matter the question or topic. There is a sincerity and curiosity that makes him special, with a devotion to friends that is more powerful even than his trademark liver kick.
So this man who has never just thought outside the box but created his own as a fighter, actor and commentator will soon be doing something else never accomplished when he becomes the first European born entry into the UFC Hall of Fame.
It is Bas’ week, his world and with great pride I am glad to be a small part of it.
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