by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
From one time Head Coach of the Los Angeles Anacondas, to commentator, to “IFL Battleground” co-host, Bas Rutten has worn many hats for the International Fight League, but perhaps none more important than the unofficial title of IFL Ambassador.
The respect Bas garnishes for his time in the fight game, his immense MMA knowledge, and one-of-a-kind personality, have all led him to becoming the figurehead of a promotion that thrives on its uniqueness amongst all the other MMA organizations.
So, it’s only fitting after a grueling eight-month 2007 regular season and single-round elimination playoff that it is Rutten who be there in the booth as either the New York Pitbulls or the two-time defending league champion Quad Cities Silverbacks claim this year’s World Team Championship at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla. on Thursday evening.
As Bas himself goes on to explain in this interview with MMAWeekly, this could very well be the best team-versus-team showdown the league has produced in its three seasons, and not only is the IFL looking to end out the year on an explosive note, so is Rutten with his myriad of current and future projects.
MMAWeekly: Alright Bas, we’re down to Renzo Gracie’s New York Pitbulls and the Quad Cities Silverbacks of Pat Miletich’s in the 2007 IFL Finals; what do you think of these two teams?
Bas Rutten: I think they’re great. Both teams are very talented. I thought that the first time that they met [in September of ‘06] that it was very close. That first fight with Bart Palaszewski [and Marcio Feitosa] could have gone either way, and if it did go the way of the Pitbulls, they would have won. So, to have the teams competing against each other again is very cool.
MMAWeekly: Looking at the five-on-five individual match-ups, which fight do you feel has the potential to be Fight of the Night?
Bas Rutten: Fight of the Night could be Bart Palaszewski versus Deividas Taurosevicius. I mean, Taurosevicius impressed me [at the IFL Semi-Finals], when he came out of the blue and did really good. He’s a great grappler, and, he said last time he was competing in the IFL that he had great striking skills too. So, what better guy to prove it against than Bart Palaszewski?
I mean, this guy [Bart], he loves to brawl, loves to knock people out and is tough as nails. And, with their weight class [lightweight], it always makes for an exciting fight, because they always have more gas in their tanks, as I say.
MMAWeekly: Which of the other remaining tournament finals bouts are you most looking forward to?
Bas Rutten: Mike C. [Ciesnolevicz] is in a rematch with Andre Gusmao – one of the most colorful fighters in the IFL and undefeated in the IFL. I believe it’s one of the only losses he’s [Mike] had in his career, so he’s got revenge on his mind and he’s on a roll [having won five in a row].
Then there’s Ben Rothwell, who’s going to be taking on Ricco Rodriguez, and that’s going to be great too. I saw Ricco at a show we did, “The Human Weapon”, and he told me he was really working on getting his stuff together – he was going through some troubles – but he’s fixed everything, and is really looking forward to competing again. That was a couple of months ago, and he was training then already, so if he kept training, we’ll see a Ricco Rodriguez that is in shape. And, if he’s in shape, we’ll see a great fight.
It’s going to be the typical submission guy versus the striker. If it goes to the ground, well Ricco could submit the guy. If it stays on the feet, then Ben is probably going to knock him out. So, it’s going to be a classic match-up.
MMAWeekly: Rounding out the evening’s card we have a few superfights featuring members from other IFL teams as well as other MMA veterans. Which of those fights are you excited to see?
Bas Rutten: Ryan Schultz is fighting Aaron Riley, and that’s going to be a great fight. Aaron Riley is a guy who always comes forward, but can he come forward against a guy like Ryan Schultz? I always call Ryan “The Stalker” because when he’s in the ring, he’s always coming forward, non-stop, pressing the action and closing the distance.
It’s very difficult for you when you’re being pushed backwards, to strike properly – it’s one of the most difficult things to do in fighting – striking while you’re moving backwards. I know, however, that Aaron Riley’s got a hard head and can hit real hard.
Rolles Gracie, everybody knows he’s great at submissions, and he said, “You know what, I’ll try MMA one time – so let’s do it.” And I love that. He’s a great guy also, so I’m really, really looking forward to seeing him fight [Sam Holloway].
Brad Blackburn against Travis Cox, that’s going to be good. Both fighters are very good and Travis Cox has a lot of stamina and loves to strike, which is good, because Brad also loves to strike, and he’s also good with submissions – so it’s a very even match-up.
MMAWeekly: So, having said all this, would you say this is the best IFL Finals so far?
Bas Rutten: Yes, I would definitely say that. And, all those superfights that I just talked about, they are going be very competitive as well.
MMAWeekly: Let’s talk about you now, Bas. What’s it been like working with the IFL this year?
Bas Rutten: It’s always great to work with a great group of people and I like the IFL. They’re business guys, but they’re also good friends on the side. And there’s not a lot of BS going on here and I like that. The way they treat the fighters, like what they said in the beginning that they were going to do, they’re actually doing. How hard is that to find nowadays in MMA? So, I really enjoy working with them.
Of course, you know, working with Tiffany Fallon [on My Network TV's "IFL Battleground"], that’s not a difficult one. She’s great – great on camera, great looking, but more importantly, she’s just very smart on top of it. It’s a very good combination and I think she’s doing a phenomenal job.
[Working on the IFL broadcasts with] Kenny Rice, of course, is great. This guy is the freak show – he’s so good at what he does. They say, “Bas, you’re a great commentator,” but I’m happy I don’t sit in his position, to be the play-by-play guy. Because, talking to commercials and all that stuff, the way he can talk, that’s a gift. It’s really a gift, like [former PRIDE commentating partner] Mauro Ranallo, he has that gift as well. And working with Stephen Quardos and all the other guys, they’re really easy to work with. It’s a walk in the park, there’s no pressure and it just makes everyone perform better.
MMAWeekly: What about your non-IFL projects, like the recently debuted “Inside MMA” show for Mark Cuban’s HDNet?
Bas Rutten: I think it received great reviews for our first show and it’s a first show – so there’s always things you think you can do better – it’s a never-ending process. But it’s a really great opportunity to cover everything MMA and be able to have guests on like Kevin James or Chuck Liddell, anyone I want, so I’m really enjoying doing that and I’m looking forward to what we can do with it in the future.
And then, on the side, I have a lot of new work, it just doesn’t stop. There’s talk about writing a book about me, and I’m thinking about it, for my kids, if they’re ever going to read it. There’s talk about movies, people are interested in doing some things with me. I just had a meeting with Stephen Quadros about working with some guys that are very, very talented, so I’m going to do something with that.
Something else I’m working on is the MMAToday.com, that’s going really crazy with 100,000 visitors a day right now. It’s everything you want to know about MMA, inside and outside the cage, it’s all right there in video clips. You go there and you can see what Forrest Griffin has to say, Shawn Tompkins has to say, the after-fight parties, the ring girls at the beach, whatever – all the stuff that has to do with fighting, even the clothing lines, bands, and intro music is there.
It just keeps coming, more and more, and I’ve actually started to have to say “No” to people, which is a very difficult thing for me to do. I always used to say “Yes” to everybody, but I started to get into trouble, because I didn’t have time to do anything, like the radio show for Sirius [Satellite Radio], and all the other organizations’ shows. But I’m really comfortable right now and I’ve realized the more that you do, the more it’s going to show in your work. So, with what I have right now, I’m fine, because it’s a lot of work, but I’m able to do a better job now.
MMAWeekly: Sounds great, Bas. Thanks as always for your time; is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion?
Bas Rutten: Well, you know I have to plug BasRutten.tv; and I want to tell the fans to come out to the show. If you’re on the East Coast, close to Florida, you have to come out; it’s going to be great. The place is great, here at the Hard Rock, and the fights are going to be great, you would be stupid not to come.
MMAWeekly: Then after the show they can catch you down in Miami on South Beach, right?
Bas Rutten: That’s it, I went to Sacha Baron Cohen and I finally got a hold of that yellow bikini [from Borat], and I’m going to show it there on the beach. I’m not going to shave; I’m just going to take that and a little umbrella with me and see what people do.