UFC Pioneer Bas Rutten Rethinks Retirment

Former UFC champ Bas Rutten won’t rule out one last bout against his biggest rival.


Bas Rutten ended his career with a 28–4–1 record, often using a liver shot to defeat his opponents. The MMA pioneer and former UFC champ retired in the late ’90s but won’t rule out one last bout against rival Ken Shamrock.  We caught up with Rutten to ask him about his decision to retire, his MMA memories and more.

M&F: Tendinitis, knee, and biceps injuries led to your decision to retire in 1999 amid a 22-fight unbeaten streak. Had you stayed healthy, would you have kept fighting?

Bas Rutten: I believe so. After my last loss [to Ken Shamrock, in 1995], I focused on ground fighting. I never lost a fight after that. Then I started to get injuries—tendinitis in the arms became very painful. If the problem started, I would have about 45 minutes to work out. And then I’d experience intense pain for up to two hours. 

The only losses you never avenged were against Ken Shamrock. Could you have beaten him?

Yes. Ken beat me when I didn’t know the ground game. Once I stuck to training on the ground twice daily, I never had a problem with anyone. If I’d fought him after that, I’m 99% sure I would have gotten him. I wanted to try to submit him. I wanted payback.

Would you fight him today?

If my arm gets better, maybe we could do something. It would be a very intriguing fight.

Ken beat me when I didn’t know the ground game...[a rematch] would be an intriguing fight.

Do you still train like an active fighter?

I train three to four times per week for 50 minutes using the Body Action System), a stationary padded MMA training instrument. I do the Bas Rutten MMA workout. It involves punch combos and knees while wearing 10-pound ankle weights. For lifting, I do three to four exercises each for biceps and shoulders, and two for triceps.

What is the most memorable fight of your career?

My rematch [in 1996] with Masakatsu Funaki, who was the first person to beat me. I was the champion and...I had revenge on my mind. It was a great fight; every time I knocked him down, he would get back up—until I grabbed him by the hair and kneed him in the face. That’s when he stayed down.

Having competed in just two UFC fights, was your induction into the UFC Hall of Fame at all surprising?

They told me, “We want to induct you for your entire career; for all the fights you had.” That was really cool. I’m in the pioneer section, which excites me, because thousands of years from now, there will be many champions, but the pioneers will always be the same.

Was moving from fighter to on-air personality for Inside MMA and the Rutten & Ranallo podcast challenging?

I always liked to entertain, and I did a lot of comedy shows in Holland and Europe. I never looked for a job after fighting [and then] I got a call: “Hey, you’re going to be a commentator.” I said, “OK,” and suddenly I’m a commentator. Then it was, “Hey, we’re starting a TV show. Want to be the host?” And now I have a TV show.

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