Bas Rutten is one of the pioneers who helped build mixed martial arts into a global industry. He takes particular joy when watching modern fighters display those same old-school, relentless qualities he once championed in the cage. That's why next Saturday’s UFC 256 card resonates so strongly with him. Only 21 days after his last title defense, UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo is back in the main event in a bout against Brandon Moreno, who also emerged victorious three weeks ago at UFC 255.
“It’s actually going to be good for both fighters,” Rutten said. “Neither of them is injured, so why not fight again right away? They’re both in training shape. I had seven fights one year in Japan, and then nine fights the next year. They still have 21 days between fights; that’s enough time. Both these guys are insane, so the fight should be great.”
Rutten, a UFC Hall of Famer, is also eager to watch the return of Tony Ferguson, who suffered a difficult loss to Justin Gaethje in May, which cost him a shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson’s 256 opponent is Charles Oliveira, who is in the middle of an impressive seven-fight win streak.
“For Tony, it’s all about his heart and his stamina,” Rutten said. “That’s what is going to separate him here. There’s also the push and the pace he sets, and the technique, but everybody has technique. It’s that extra heart and stamina that allows Tony to shine. He can keep on pushing, he’s relentless, which gives him the edge in that fight.”
Forever attached to the world of combat sports, Rutten is now part of a new project, providing analysis for Karate Combat. The show is in its second season, airing episodes on its YouTube channel every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
“Karate is the second sport I ever did—first it was taekwondo, then karate,” said Rutten. “From karate, I went to Thai boxing, and then to MMA. So the sport has always meant a lot to me. When I got a call asking me to be an ambassador for Karate Combat, I said to sign me up.
“This is full combat fighting with Olympic-level athletes from all over the world, and the show does a great job introducing people to the fighters. Some of these stories are really touching, and then there is a great quality of fighting. I love fighting, and I think this is really special.”
Beginning on Sunday's episode, Rutten is joined in the broadcast booth by Game of Thrones star and renowned strongman Hafthor Bjornsson.
“Hafthor adds a lot to the show,” said Rutten. “He has a great mind for this, so people are going to enjoy his insight, and he is also a beast of a man. One day he was playing around and lifted our host, Layla Anna-Lee, above his head. It looked quite easy for him, so I asked him, ‘How much weight can you lift above your head?’ He said 440 pounds. He can neck press two of me. To me, that is insanity. People are going to be enjoy him in this role.”
Longtime fans of Rutten will enjoy hearing such distinct passion in his voice on Karate Combat. And while he is not likely to shout “Mamma Mia!” any time soon, Rutten shared that he continues to pick up broadcasting tips from close friend Mauro Ranallo, who called last weekend's Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. boxing exhibition.
“There is no one better than Mauro,” Rutten said. “I helped discover him, and I knew he was going to be the best commentator. And there is so much to learn from him. He has a crazy memory, and he’s really invested in what he’s doing.
“I watched the Tyson-Jones fight at the Tyson ranch, and I was amazed at Tyson’s speed and the way he didn’t get tired. I also made sure we turned up the volume so I could hear Mauro, and he was fantastic. I’m so stoked for his success.”