Less than 48 hours ago, it was still common knowledge that Bas Rutten would be making his return to fighting after a seven-year retirement when he stepped into the WFA cage with UFC and Pride veteran Kimo Leopoldo. Now, with slightly more than 24 hours to go and two opponent changes later, it is still not 100 percent confirmed as to whether or not Rutten will even have anyone to stand across the cage from him at The Forum in Los Angeles tomorrow night.
Following Kimo’s removal from the fight due to a failed drug test, the WFA had turned to Wes “The Project” Sims to step in and take the fight. For his part, Sims wanted to take the fight, but was also torn because of a prior commitment to fight on the WEC’s Hitman tribute show to raise funds for the family of Ryan Bennett, who died in a car accident on May 31st.
According to Sims, a number of fighters have backed out of their commitments to the WEC show, and out of his friendship with Bennett, he was not going to be one of them.
“If Ryan Bennett were here, he’d say ‘Wes, take the fight.’ But he’s not here to say that. That is why I’m fighting [next week] on the WEC show,” said an emotional Sims. “The money will come and go. This is more important than money. In fact, I’m not taking a dime for my fight next week.” Sims also noted that any sponsorship money that he receives for the fight will also be donated to the Bennett family.
Sources within the WFA also confirmed that once Jeremy Lappen found out that Sims was to be the main event of the benefit show, he was as a much a part of the decision as Sims was to not have Rutten fight Sims. Out of respect for Ryan Bennett and his family, Lappen didn’t want to pull the main event from the WEC show.
It has now been confirmed that Ruben “Warpath” Villareal has accepted an offer from the WFA to fight Rutten tomorrow night, but even that is not a certainty. Yes, he has accepted the fight, but they are still awaiting final medical clearance before he can become Rutten’s official opponent, and the WFA will not announce him as such until he has been cleared.
Obviously, with all of this taking place within 48 to 72 hours of fight time, and with the strenuous guidelines set forth by the California State Athletic Commission, finding a replacement has become a logistical nightmare as much as anything else. With the sand running in the hourglass, it will be revealed in these last few hours whether or not Rutten will indeed finally get to make his much anticipated return to fighting.