UFC legend Bas Rutten: 'I would have loved to have finished my career at Karate Combat'

  • Tom Ward
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UFC legend Bas Rutten was in a bit of a rush, but a smile broke across his face as he looked back on his career with a sense of pride.

For some MMA fans who may be too young to remember, the former UFC heavyweight champion fought professionally from 1993 to 2006 and was crowned champ in 1999.

Rutten’s most notable wins came against Kevin Randleman, Frank Shamrock and Maurice Smith.

He was also inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in May 2015.

But it is his remarkable comeback at the age of 40 that is the true stuff of legend.

However, that didn’t come without its consequences, as Rutten explained to GiveMeSport.com this week.

In fact, he was so riddled with injuries, he was forced to retire again a few months later.

“That was the Lord telling me it was time to stop you know,” he admitted.

“He gave me a bunch of injuries that I hated at the time and now I understand why it was because he didn’t want to wreck my career.

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Bas Rutten (C), Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson (L) and Georges St-Pierre (R)

“You know, I came off a 22 unbeaten streak which was a great way to stop because if I did not have the injuries I would have been a knucklehead.

“I would have been an idiot. I was fighting guys half my age who started fighting at ten years old. Eventually you’re going to lose.

“So I’m happy that I got the injuries but when I came back again I was training in Vegas with some of the top guys at the time and they were like ‘dude, you have a second career’.

“I thought, ‘Okay then, let’s give it a go’, and then all the injuries start coming back.

“I was really messed up for that fight. I tore a hamstring, my rib was out, I had tendonitis in both arms. I was crushed.

“But I had to fight because I had just spent like 35,000 dollars on rehab. I was training, in rehab, training, in rehab. It was a fricking nightmare.

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Bas Rutten is a former UFC heavyweight champion

“So thankfully no, I’m happy about it, I’m glad I didn’t keep fighting.”

Rutten, 57, currently serves as a Season Sensei on the fourth season of Karate Combat.

Asked if he would have liked to have had the chance to kick off his career by competing in the world’s first full-contact karate league, he admitted “I think it would have been the other way around.”

“I would have loved to finish my career at Karate Combat kind of like what Gabriel Varga right now is doing as well right,” Rutten added.

“He kind of was thinking about retiring but then Karate Combat came along.

“For me, my biggest wish was I wanted to do the 100-man kumite thing at the very end of my career. I talked to a bunch of guys, they said take a hundred, because after thirty it doesn’t matter anymore. You’re so beat up you’re just fighting on automatic pilot.

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Bas Rutten shows he’s still got it at the age of 57

“It was going to take me at least six months to train if not longer because you’re fighting 100 black belts especially if you do it in Japan because they don’t want you to get it and you’ve got to knock out as many of them as you can because you don’t want to be fighting for three hours and twenty minutes.

“They also give you a break. In the early days they gave you like a 20 minute break. But now they give you a shorter break because after 20 minutes you don’t want to go back anymore because you’re badly hurt and in pain.

“So yeah, that would have been great, and then at the end, probably two or three months in the hospital [he laughs]. I’m not the youngest guy anymore. But unfortunately it got taken away from me.”

As one of the early pioneers of mixed martial arts, Rutten has seen the sport grow and evolve over the years.

However he still reckons he could mix it with the best if he was in his prime – provided he had a proper training camp of course.

“Well, you would need to give me time to adjust because you’re only as good as your training partners,” Rutten replied, when quizzed on how a prime version of himself would have fared against the likes of Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic.

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Francis Ngannou

Where was Francis Ngannou born?

“You have to understand, for 90 per cent of my fights, I only had one training partner who never tapped me.

“I was always the guy who was dominant so it’s very hard to get better like that so I started doing little tricks like getting myself tired before we started grappling so he had a better chance.

“So I think if you put me back in time and you gave me half a year with a fricking training camp anywhere, American Top Team, whatever it is, with those guys, yeah, I’m going to have to believe I’d do really well you know.

“Heavyweight I don’t think so because those guys are freaking monsters nowadays. Listen, the heavyweight division was 200 lbs and over when I fought. I wore my jeans on the weight scale, I was 197, and they told me it couldn’t be a title fight because I had to be over 200lbs.

“So I got all the water from my buddies and got back on the scale at 203, I drank way too much water but I didn’t want to take the risk, and so it was a heavyweight fight.

“If I was fighting now, I would probably fight at 205 or 185. If you’re a guy who is 215 lbs and you can’t get below 205, you’re facing guys who are cutting down. Like my last opponent was 265 and on the day of the fight I was like 208.

“So they need – and I’ve been talking about it for a long time – they need a cruiserweight division in MMA. I think like 235 and up or 225 and up, something like that. Because that gap is too big.”

Good news, fight fans! Karate Combat Season 4: Atamov vs Levine is free to watch on YouTube in the UK. For more information, visit the Karate Combat website at www.karate.com.

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