by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Fight fans throughout the United States got the chance to witness the International Fight League (IFL) when it debuted to a national cable audience on Fox Sports Net over the weekend. The coach of the IFL’s Anacondas, “El Guapo” Bas Rutten, recently spoke with MMAWeekly about the new mixed martial arts promotion and the possibility of his return to in-ring MMA competition.
The biggest question marks leading up to the IFL’s first show were how it would be received by the public, and how the team concept would go over with the public. Bas told MMAWeekly, “Those guys [the IFL promoters], they did everything that they promised, everything. They took care of the fighters. Everything was top notch, taken care of. The show was a great show. The team concept was really cool. You have five fights and if it’s a tie, you win two fights, the last guy who is going to win that, it’s not just a win. On top of that, he wins for the whole team, so there’s a lot of pressure on those guys. Maybe they’re behind like 1 to 2 or something, and then if it comes to the third one they could lose the whole thing right away, but if they can come back they’re still in the race, so it’s a real cool concept.”
Further discussing the team concept, Rutten commented, “We were walking around there, and we were with, like with a group. They were all supporting each other. What you’re going to see is like the next fighter, he’s warming up behind stage… but the other three, plus the three coaches, we’re all sitting on chairs behind the fighter, and everybody is screaming and cheering for those guys.”
Elaborating on the dynamics of the team concept, Bas said, “Of course, if you come from one gym, like Pat Miletich has already a whole group of fighters that comes from the gym, but it’s not a team concept [in a typical MMA promotion]. Those guys have got their own sponsors. They’re kind of really fighting for themselves. They fight for Pat Miletich and for me, but now this is a real team [in the IFL]. Everybody has got outfits and jerseys. They’ve got everything the same. It gives it a whole different feeling. When you walk around there, like I said, everybody was like, it was like a big family. It was cool to see, really nice.”
Regarding the TV presentation of the show and the management of the IFL, Rutten said, “You’re going to be amazed at the production. You’ve got to understand, the production people, the one guy did the Fox Super Bowl. It did like thirty Emmys. The production is top notch. Everything, it’s really good. Maurice Smith had a guy who got injured like five days before the fight, had a big cut above his eye, got a lot of stitches, came in and got his normal money paid. Everything that they promised, they did, and that’s why I think it’s going to take off, I think.”
Mixed martial arts is undoubtedly a one-on-one sport. The team concept is a revolutionary format idea, but its downfall could be that some of the most exciting well-known fighters’ teams could lose, which would result in the fans not getting to see those specific fighters as other teams advance. Rutten addressed this issue, saying, “The coolest thing about the IFL is… they bring guys back for super fights, like now on June 3rd, I don’t fight as a team. I have three super fights. Okay? So, that is a one-on-one thing, but still they’re a part of a team, but it’s a one-on-one thing.”
Bas Rutten is a legend in the sport, boasting a 27-4-1 record. Is the 41-year-old contemplating a return to the ring?
When asked about the recent rumors that he’s coming back, Bas responded, “I think I’m interested, but I’m just training. I have so many injuries. I started training with those guys, and my injuries started going away. Right away, everything started to blow up. Everybody starts making assumptions and everything, but I’m just going to wait and see what happens with my body. I’m training for what, three weeks? I haven’t trained in three years, and haven’t fought in seven. I’m just working my body, just like this morning, I trained. From there, I’m just going to see.”
Rutten continued, “It’s been a long time, but you know what? I sparred the first day… it was a terrible sparring session. The second and third day, I started dropping people with liver shots all over the place, so it came back so fast. The only thing, I’ve got to start rolling now. It will be my first roll workout… the rest of it is just power training, strengthening my arms and everything, so I’ll be in good shape for it.”
Rutten’s last fight was against Kevin Randleman in May of 1999 at UFC 20: Battle for the Gold, where he won by decision to capture the UFC Heavyweight Title.
Put on the spot by MMAWeekly’s Ryan Bennett and asked if he wants to fight again, Rutten answered, “Yeah, the itch is definitely there. I’ve got the bruises. My foot is swollen, and everything is back… and you know what? To tell you the truth, man, I missed that. I feel like I’m alive again. It’s really cool. I feel really good.”
Bennett followed up by asking, “Give me your percentage of Bas coming back to fight between now and the end of the year.” Rutten responded, “I think there’s a clear chance, like 80 to 90 percent. That’s good. If I keep going like I do now, I see no problems.”
Bas added, “Randy [Couture] doing it, in a way made me say, ‘Man, come on, man.’ We’re both going to open a gym next month. We just got the keys and everything. I said, ‘I’ve just got to come back.’”
If Rutten does return to MMA competition, which organization might be choose for his comeback fight? Bas provided a not-so-subtle hint when he said, “What about Pat Miletich fighting Renzo Gracie in August? They’re going to fight in the IFL, and so the coaches are going to fight each other, and God knows, there are going to be four new coaches coming, and maybe I’m going to be fighting one of the other coaches.”
It certainly sounds as if Bas Rutten will be making a return to MMA competition, and we’ll keep you posted on his future plans as more details emerge.