by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When Bas “El Guapo” Rutten does things, he does them all the way. Whether it’s fighting, commentating, or leading his IFL team, with Rutten it’s usually all or nothing.
So when the IFL came to Bas recently asking if he’d become the face of the promotion both on TV and abroad, he had a choice to make. Either he could remain with the Los Angeles Anacondas as Head Coach and try to balance that with his commentating, or take on the bigger responsibility of being the company’s ambassador across all mediums.
Rutten chose the latter.
And so this past Saturday at the IFL’s event at The Forum in L.A., Bas made the surprise announcement that he would be leaving the Anacondas, handing the reigns of the team over to Assistant Coach Shawn Tompkins, and concentrate solely on commentating and promoting the IFL in every way possible.
Understandably the choice was not an easy one to make, as Bas himself told MMAWeekly shortly after the announcement was made and Rutten began his new role as “The Face of the IFL.”
MMAWeekly: First thing Bas, tell us why you left the Anacondas, what lead to that decision?
Bas Rutten: First of all, I came to America to do something in entertainment, and now the IFL came to me and asked me if I wanted to do a show [IFL Battleground] and on top of that represent the IFL – so every where I go I be the face of the IFL.
Now normally, I wouldn’t have done this. Because I love my team and it’s a very, very strong bond, and I cannot do both because there would be a conflict of interest. I’m going to interview all the fighters, and will be sitting there [with the other teams] all the time, so I can understand if coaches are going to complain. So that’s when right away I thought, “You know what, why don’t I resign?”
The only reason I could resign was because of Shawn Tompkins. He’s been there for me since the beginning of the Anacondas. He brought me Chris Horodecki, Krzysztof Soszynski, and if I couldn’t make it to train with the guys, Shawn would fly out. So the guys always knew Shawn. Shawn has also been teaching under the Bas Rutten System and I’ve known him for 8 years.
He was at my gym, the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club, a long time ago, like 8 years ago, so he’s stayed with me for a long time. We have exactly the same training thoughts. If I wouldn’t have [had] him, I don’t know if I could have made the decision, that’s the only thing, so I’m very fortunate I had Shawn.
MMAWeekly: How did the team take your decision?
Bas Rutten: The team is okay. Because, like I said, they know Shawn, they train with him, [and] everybody respects the hell out of him, because he’s a phenomenal instructor. And they know if they come to my gym that I’m teaching at, they can jump in the classes, it’s not like I’m totally separating myself from the team and everything they need.
They can always call me, although I cannot be bias anymore. I cannot help them with the team formation, I cannot do that of course, and I don’t want to do that. Because I always think that fighting is about honesty and everything like that. I think I can do a good job at that [separating myself], but it’s going to be difficult though to not be bias when they are fighting. [Laughs]
MMAWeekly: What was it like having to sit at the announcer’s table and not be able to work with the team directly during their 5-0 sweep of Frank Shamrock’s San Jose Razorclaws?
Bas Rutten: It was good, but you know what, I spent the last 10 days with those guys, and Shawn the 10 days before with them, so I took them over, brought them over [to L.A.], and I really would have liked to have been the coach one last time.
But for professional reasons we couldn’t do that. I wanted to [coach them] one last time, then hand the torch to Shawn in the ring, but we could not do it because it would have been very difficult on the production. That’s why I asked for that little video clip we made in the dressing room, so the people could understand what was going on. It was hard for me, but I was enjoying every second of it.
These guys train so hard and we said it before, “We could really sweep these guys.” It’s that strong, how we felt, and I was very extremely happy with everybody, especially Krzysztof Soszynski. This was a big fight for him and he stepped up so amazingly. He became such a bigger, better fighter than he used to be. His loss to Ben Rothwell has always been in his head, and Ben lost to Dan Christison, so him to beat Dan that was phenomenal.
MMAWeekly: Okay, moving onto the IFL’s new TV show, “IFL Battleground,” what can people expect to see from you in that, and how do you feel you can better help endear it to MMA fans and non-MMA fans?
Bas Rutten: The main reason that the IFL really wanted me to go from FSN to MyNetwork TV is that they said to, “Get Bas… Get Bas’ personality, because we like his personality, we like the way he is, the way he is with the people,” the way I’m with the fans and everything.
So when it came to the offer, I said, “Listen, there’s no boundaries, I don’t to like to be on a leash and not be able to do the things I like to do.” And they said, “No, you don’t understand, we want you to be ‘Bas,’ you can do whatever you want to do.” So I said, “Okay, I’ll take it.”
I want to bring the people into the life of the fighters, the backstage, their home, their dressing rooms, show them the hand-wrapping, everything. [I'm doing the show] together with Tiffany Fallon, who doesn’t know much about MMA at the moment, which is perfect. She’s going to ask me all the all the questions that the people at home want to [know the answers to].
Not the MMA fans, because they know it already, but that’s a small percentage of the [viewing] population, all the other percentage are going to be like, “Why do they wrap their hands a certain way? What are they supposed to do when they are on the ground?” So whatever she can ask, she can ask me and we’ll help educate the audience at home, so people are going to get more knowledge about MMA.
MMAWeekly: It sounds like there could be a lot of good things on the horizon for “IFL Battleground.”
Bas Rutten: I’m really looking forward to it. I’m so excited, you can’t believe it. Because they let me do it my way and I think people are really going to enjoy it, let’s hope. [Laughs] Everything is so the same with things like boxing, so we’re going to see if we can break away and do something special.
MMAWeekly: Besides the IFL, what other things can we look forward to from you now that you’ll have more time to concentrate on the entertainment aspect of your career?
Bas Rutten: Let me tell you, everything’s going so fast. That short comedy that I did [The Kingdom of Ultimate Power] is well accepted. It was one of the Top 5 movies here at the short film festival here in L.A., which was among 650 movies, and then it won First Prize at a film festival in New York.
Everybody has been raving about the acting in it, and it was a comedy, and I really enjoy doing comedy. I think at the end of this season there is been talking about another TV show that they want to do, the idea is already there, and while I’m not the lead, I’m one of four leads and will be a major part of that particular series.
I’ve signed with William Morris Agency, the biggest agency in the world, and they’re working really hard for me too. So everything is going really well and I know it’s going to be a fun ride for everybody, 100%.
MMAWeekly: Good stuff Bas, thanks for taking the time to let us in on everything. Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans before we head out?
Bas Rutten: For me, they’re going to see the old Bas, but way more. The way they know me, I won’t change; I won’t ever do that, not for status or anything. Everything is going to be fun and informative as well. Of course, when it needs to be serious, I’ll be serious; I’m not crazy all the time. [Laughs]
As far as Shawn Tompkins and those guys [the Anacondas], I think they’re going to get the [Championship] rings this year. They’re going all the way to the finals, I have that feeling because they are doing so good, they’re getting stronger and strong each day, which is insane. With Shawn Tompkins there, and Sergio Pena as the submission coach – one of the best guys on the planet with submissions – I think that combination is just unbeatable.
MMAWeekly: Sounds like it’s going to be a good year for Bas Rutten, the Anacondas, and the IFL all around.
Bas Rutten: It’s going to be a big year for everybody: myself, the Anacondas, the IFL, and Tiffany Fallon. I know a lot of people think, “Oh she’s a Playmate [of the Year], maybe it’s not good for our sport,” but she’s very smart, witty, good looking and she’s perfect for the job. People will be amazed with her; she’s very good for the job.
MMAWeekly: She’s good looking, but not as good looking as El Guapo, right?
Bas Rutten: [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know about that.