Ladies and gentlemen. UFC- Hall of Famer Bas Rutten alias “El Guapo” wrote down exclusively for German Fight News his thoughts on the upcoming fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, a topic the entire MMA-Community speaks about. He breaks down his career and the evolution of the sport. And he shares with us what is crossing his mind when it comes down to the fighters payments.
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History of MMA
by Bas Rutten
What a ride it has been for me, I started MMA September 1993 in Japan, it was called “Fee Fighting” at the time.
I had no clue about the rules, I knew it was Pancrase, so open hand strikes to the head, close fists to the body and I would be wearing shoes and shin protection. I didn’t know how many rounds we had to fight and how many minutes, also I wondered if we would have a weigh in?
Well, I found out ON the day of the fight that there was no weight class, I saw my opponent, who was 110KG and asked: “Is he not much bigger than I am”? (I was about 95 KG), their answer was: “Oh we have no weight class, everybody fights everybody”.
OK, I said, “good” (I wasn’t thinking “good” but I bluffed), so then I asked: “How many rounds we fight?”
They said: “One round”. I was happy, only one round, so I asked: “How many minutes?” They answered: “30 minutes”
Again I said: “Great, I am great shape, lets do this”, but I wasn’t thinking like that, as soon as the guy left I asked my manager: “What the heck are we doing here? 30 minute fights and he is 15KG heavier than me? Are you crazy?”
But it was all good, I knocked him out in 43 seconds. Craziest experience ever, the fans were going nuts, attacking me (in a good way), a couple had a baby and they put their baby in my arms and made a picture (that baby is now 24 years old, how weird is that?) the next day people were bowing to me on the street which I thought was strange and then I saw a newspaper with a picture of me in the ring hanging in the air in the splits and my opponent laying on the ground. “Aha, now I know why people know me”, I thought.
And that’s how it all began.
Now I was a striker and almost had no ground experience, so my next fight I won by KO again but then my third one they already found out that they didn’t want to stand with me, so I got taken down and experienced my first loss in MMA.
It was a “toe hold”, I didn’t even know what that move was, I knew it hurt a lot because I experienced that, but had
no clue. Won three fights again, then lost, won, lost, won, and then I lost again to Ken Shamrock.
I thought: “OK, if I want to become a champion in this, I really need to focus on ground fighting”, but I had nobody to roll with, yeah sometimes I went to Amsterdam to train with Chris Dolman, but that was 2 ours away from my home and there were days there were only a few guys there.
So I started asking every person I knew if they wanted to roll with me and I found one guy, Leon van Dijk. Great striker, super strong and a great athlete. We started training in ground fighting, two and sometimes even three times a day.
We would watch fights and instructional videos, and would just work on submissions that we saw. But what we did was making things better, or, at least make it better fit for us.
We would for instance work on a leg lock: “OK, how does this feel? Good? How can you get out of it?”. My buddy tried to escape, when he did escape we would see how we could stop that escape, we would find counters, different set ups, we just started to go crazy. My whole house was full of “post it” notes with combinations on them, I would wake my wife in the middle of the night because I would dream a submission, so I would put her in that submission, ask her where it hurt, write it down and try it out the next day in training, my poor wife, haha, but she is still with me, 25 years now!
It worked, my next 8 fights I won by submission (one was a decision but I controlled him on the ground). In fact, I never lost a fight anymore in my life; I didn’t lose a single fight in my last 22 fights.
I always tell my students that, if I can do it, they can do it, I am nothing better than them, it’s just putting the work in, a lot of work, but as you can see by the results, it paid off.
The matchmaker John Perretti from the UFC came to Japan, they heard about me since I beat some UFC guys in Japan and he was there to see me fight. After the fight he asked if I wanted to come over to the UFC and fight there,
it sounded like a great opportunity, so I said YES.
That’s where I became the UFC heavyweight Champion
How the sport evolved
Now the reason that everything went good for me is that many fighters at that time were just focusing on one or two arts, like wrestling and kick boxing, or wrestling and ground fighting.
But since I was good on the ground and good on my feet and made sure I was in crazy shape, I was already ahead of my competition.
Fun fact, when I got inducted into the UFC Hall Hall of Fame they ran some stats on me and my fighting career, it said that I had won 13 fights by submission (12KO and 3DEC) but that I never attempted a single takedown, I thought that was funny, because that meant that my opponent took me down and I submitted him.
So that’s the lesson here, just make sure you are good everywhere. Now it was hard to find wrestling gyms in Holland, there are only a few, so I always sucked at wrestling, but I just made sure I was good on the ground, so when they did take me down, I would reverse them and submit them.
Then MMA started to become bigger, still though, many fighters were always focusing on ONE art, if there was a great striker, most of the time he would suck on the ground , so when they took him down he would lose by submission. I always told these guys, “train in what area you are bad at, that’s the ONLY way to get better!”. But unfortunately that didn’t happen with many of them.
What also annoyed me were fighters who would run out of gas, they would get tired and than lose because of that?
How stupid is that? Conditioning is the ONLY thing you can control, you just have to train extremely hard, it’s very simple.
Pride fighting Championships was getting huge, I became their color commentator, and there I saw new talent be born, especially Sakuraba of course. Fedor, Wanderlei Silva, Cro Cop, Overeem, etc, all these guys were getting better everywhere AND they had stamina!
The UFC started their TV show The Ultimate Fighter, that became a hit and BOOM, suddenly the UFC was the biggest show on the planet.
When I fought in the UFC, it was one round of 12 minutes and a three minute extra round, my title fight was I believe one 15 minute round and two 3 minute rounds afterwards.
The UFC started to implement more weight classes, a new round system came, 3 rounds of 5 minutes for normal fights and 5 rounds of 5 minutes for title fights, better rules, everything just became better and better and that included the fighters of course!
Now we are at a spot where all the top fighters know how to wrestle, strike and ground fight. Yeah, you have still guys who focus on one art, and most of the times they don’t so well, they might get lucky once a while, but it is so important to know it all, its called MMA, so simply make sure you know it all.
Where is it going to go? I don’t know, I think it’s still relatively a young sport, 24 years old, so I believe that in 5 years or so we see way more fighters with talent like Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones, I would say that those two are right now the best guys out there “pound for pound”.
The fighters payment
The payment system sucks right now, yes there are a bunch of millionaires who make a lot of money, but only a few, the other ones don’t get paid what they deserve yet, but that will come, I am pretty sure of that.
Because training, good food, therapy, your coach, your manager, everything costs money. If you make, lets say, $20,000 for a fight, and you double it when you win you make $40,000. 10% goes to the trainer, 10% to the manager, another 20% taxes (after you write your trainer and manager off). That’s $16,000, so you have $24,000 left.
From that money you still have to eat, house, car, insurance, etc, etc. Lets say you fight 4 times a year (if you are lucky, because many fight just 2 or 3 times a year), that means you have to live from $72,000 a year, and that is when you WON your fight, because otherwise you only get $20,000, that will be $12,000 after you paid your trainers and managers plus taxes. So then you have to live on $36,000 a year. It’s crazy. Hopefully some guys can make money with sponsors, but when you are not an exiting fighter behind the camera in interviews, you don’t get a lot there as well.
But I am pretty sure it will go up, just takes time
It’s much safer than the earlier days, I fought guys who were using PED’s and thankfully everybody is getting checked right now. And when you read this and want to become a fighter, you do NOT need PED’s! I started MMA when I was 28 years old, that’s pretty old, there are many guys who already use PED’s at that age, but you don’t need it, just eat good and train smart. Another great thing is that you will stay the same weight when you stop fighting. I started fighting at 205 pounds, and when I fought in the UFC I was 203 pounds, so over my entire career I was the same weight.
Now they also have CAT scans, MRI’s, everything gets tested before a fighter competes, and those are of course all good things.
I am still hoping that MMA will get back into the Olympics, it was in the very first two Olympics, but that was 648 years BC, still, I have high hopes, I believe we need over 70 countries to sign up in order to make it an Olympic event. Lets keep our fingers crossed.
Last thing, everybody is asking me, McGregor or Mayweather, who is going to win?
Well, 80% certain it will be Mayweather, but if Conor can connect with his left straight, he might knock him out.
Mayweather not only comes from a boxing family and has been boxing since he was like in diapers; on top of that, he never lost and is the best defensive boxer out there.
The reason I give McGregor a chance is because there will be a lot of pressure on Mayweather, he is 49-0 right now, and he wants to make it 50-0. That already gives more pressure. Also, every single person who see Mayweather will tell him: “This is going to be an easy fight for you, he’s an MMA guy, he can’t box, you are going to knock him out!” and the more people tell him this, the more pressure he gets, because when he loses he loses to a non boxer. It’s almost like fighting a girl (just an example, I do NOT compare McGregor with a girl because he’s an animal and I love that guy) but what I am trying to say is that when you beat a girl, well, people say “it’s a girl, you should have won”, but when he loses……… See what I mean? He can NOT lose this, it will destroy him.
I really hope McGregor wins, I love that guy and I believe that Mayweather is just not a good person, but he IS a phenomenal athlete who is a really great boxer.
The entire GFN-Team thanks El Guapo and wants to mention that Bas Rutten responded immediately very kind, friendly and professional to our request.