In our second installment of the incredible interview with Bas Rutten on Late Night Cage Side Radio, we focus solely on MMA and we continue to extract what we can, like a sponge, from the well of knowledge that is “El’ Guapo.”
Bas is famously known for brining popularity to the phrase “liver shot,” and rightfully so. Finishing several of his opponents with vicious body strikes, and on more than one occasion breaking a liver, Bas has become synonymous with the left hook and left kick to the body. With that in mind, the LNCS crew asked Bas who he felt executes the body shot most effectively in MMA, and why he thinks it is still so underutilized. Rutten replied, “More and more people have started using it now. Mark Hominick used it when he would fight, Sam Stout also uses it but they were also working under Sean Tompkins, rest in peace. The problem is guys land to the liver and then all they do is focus on the liver. When you hurt somebody there, right away you want to go upstairs, he is going to want to protect his liver, so hit him hard in the head so he is forced to bring his hands back up, then go to the liver again.
“This is the way I teach, if he is hurt to the liver, distract him and go to the head and when he is hurt to the head distract him with the liver and then to go back to the head. My first fight when I dropped the guy with a palm strike, he gets back up and his hands a high defending his head, so the first thing I do is throw the liver kick as hard as I can to show him that the liver kick is coming. I want him to block it, I want him to see it as a hard strike and he has to block it, and when the hands go down, boom, back to the head. I feel a lot of fighters still don’t think that way and it is really hard to control in the beginning because your mind plays tricks on you when you are fighting. Your mind tells you to go for the head, they always think the head is the weak spot, but it’s not and as soon as you can control that, you’re going to be really good. Like Rory MacDonald against B.J. Penn, when Rory hurt him with a body shot, right away he went back upstairs. See, now this is a young kid who is already thinking, he could go very far in his career.”
Another fighting virtue that Rutten lives by is the idea that if you throw a strike with power and bad intention, the other fighter is forced to block or get knocked out. While this moniker is evident in Rutten’s fight career, we asked “El’ Guapo” who he thought used this block or be bludgeoned style best in the fight game today, Bas responded, “Jose Aldo. I used to be a huge fan of Ramon Dekkers, also rest in peace, and my whole style was formed around Ramon Dekkers and I think that Jose Aldo is the Ramon Dekkers of Mixed Martial Arts. This is a very basic concept that I am saying, hit somebody really hard in the head and his hands need to go up, that means something else will open up. When I see people kneeing and kneeing, not trying to stick a fan up my butt here, but try to find a fight where I throw more than one knee, you won’t. I give one knee, fight’s over. I time them; I am looking and I see them breathing and when they breath in I try to time that moment. It is all about one very powerful and well placed knee. That’s it, that’s the fight. In Pancrase I think I had five body knockouts and it would be from a knee where I just picked my shot. And what are the knees to the thighs? Like Hammil and Silva, Silva kept throwing the low kick and when they get to the clinch, not one knee to the thigh. If you throw a knee to the thigh like I do, one, maybe two and the fight is over. Also the side mount, why don’t we see anybody throwing knees from the side mount? I throw them is such a way that if you can land two or three knees it’s the end of the fight, just stand up and walk away and the guy can’t walk anymore. When you attack a relaxed muscle it’s the ultimate charlie horse.”
One of Rutten’s most successful students would have to be Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Ludwig trained under the tutelage of Bas for much of his career and captured some of his most impressive wins during that time. Duane’s admiration for his biggest professional influence is so profound that Ludwig gave his second son the middle name Bas. Since retiring from MMA, Ludwig has quickly become one of the most highly touted coaches in the game with Team Alpha Male. With Duane being the obvious shoe-in for Coach Of The Year honors, the LNCS crew asked Rutten why his former protégé is able to teach so effectively. Bas said, “What he is doing is he is listening. When I teach classes now on Tuesday and Thursday I am always going back to the basics, and one time this guy tells me, ‘You know what’s funny Bas? What you are teaching me now you have taught me fifty times already.’ I go, ‘Really? You are about to hear something even more funny, you’re still doing it wrong.’ He looked at me and I told him that is why I was doing it. Sometimes I get angry after a class and I really scold them out like why are you here? Why are you wasting your money and your time? If I was somewhere training I always brought a notebook and I was always writing things down, I would be busy with it. But I teach them an arm bar and sometimes three weeks later I try it out and seventy percent of them have to be retaught.
“With Duane, whatever you tell him he does. I want to say four or five times I told him the winning combination in the dressing room. I would say ok this is what is going to happen, that is how we knocked out Jens Pulver and how we got the fastest knockout in the UFC. You can see me hanging over the cage and I am saying, ‘I am telling you, I don’t know why but he is going to come straight at you, hit him with a right straight.’ You hear me repeating it, sure enough the guy comes straight out of the gate and boom, Duane knocks him out. I had a time with Duane where I told him the guy was going to start with a low kick, counter it. He blocked the kick but he didn’t counter and he looked at me like, ‘Fuck!’
“It was the same with Jens, he was left handed and he was always standing in one line. That is why I don’t like to stand in one line like normal boxers, not like Mike Tyson, he stood square like me so he could have almost equal power in both hands. Traditional boxers stand in one line and that was what Jens used to do and he loved to open up with a right hook. So I told Duane if he opened with a right hook that I wanted him to land a right straight in his face, the fight started and Jens threw the right hook and Duane looked at me like, ‘Fuck I missed it.’ Jens does it again and boom Duane lands it, then the combination that I told him and he added a right kick to the face and that was it. He was the first guy to knock out Jens Pulver. He is just listening, I see him with notebooks and I am the same way, I don’t want to waste my time or money so I am writing things down. I think really it is like a video game, I would say left hook, cross, liver and in a second he threw that combination. He brings that to his teaching and he is super passionate about what he is doing, you always see him writing things down and that is because he is passionate about teaching now.”
Changing gears, the conversation briefly shifted to current events and hot topics in MMA. The first item on that agenda was a topic Rutten is very familiar with, leg locks. Former UFC welterweight Rousimar Palhares was axed from the promotion after the Brazilian held onto a heel hook on Mike Pearce for a considerable time after the ref stepped in to stop the fight. That marked Palhares’ second offense after being harshly warned by UFC executives, and Palhares publicly pleaded with the MMA community to forgive him. In regards to the Palhares debacle, Bas stated, “A lock like that, especially with a guy like Palhares, it’s a career killer. It can really tare the knee up and when you get to a certain age you start to heal way slower, so that could be your last fight. If it was the first time I would give him a big warning, don’t give him the submission bonus, he would have won that by the way because he had the only submission, but it was the second time. The first time he had a big warning, on Inside MMA we talked about it and we had a statement from his manager that said they had been working with him on it really hard to see if he could stop doing it and that it was because he was excited. If you have already done this before, and your camp tried to un-teach you this, and you do it again, then I guess it didn’t work. I say it was the right thing to do although it hurts me to say it because I used to fight, but I would have done the said the same thing.”
Another topic of interest in recent weeks has been the decision for the Jones vs Gustafsson bout at UFC 165 and who should rightfully have the light heavyweight title. Both men fought in what we all believed would be a Fight Of The Year candidate until Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez engaged in a war of the ages just a few weeks later. When asked to give his opinion on the fight between Jones and Gustafsson, Rutten said, “That is one of those cases where if you want to beat the champ and it goes to a close decision the champ always gets it. You have to win convincingly and I thought it was too close for that. I thought Gustafsson won the first two rounds but then suddenly Jones started coming, and with that big elbow, if that big elbow would not have landed I think Gustafsson would be the champ. That could have been a 10-8 round because Jones really hurt him, he showed that he had a lot of heart man, he just kept turning it up. Also Gustafsson because he was super tired but just kept fighting, the real power and snap was gone but he just kept going. Jones had a little more power in the last rounds and I think that is really what did it.”
While on the topic of judging and bad decisions, the LNCS wanted to know what Rutten thought about judging and how to fix it. Since Bas had fought under both Japanese and American rules, his insight on this matter was sure to hold its weight with most. Bas told BJPENN.COM, “It’s hard because sometimes you get scorecards that are totally opposite than the other ones and I wonder how can anyone even come close with that? What fight were they watching? They should be second guessed now and put on a list to make sure it doesn’t happen again and then three strikes they are out. Like the old woman who did the Pacquiao fight and then the Mayweather fight, they let her go now. In MMA we still have it and it’s a shame, we should have some kind of quality control and the same with referees. If they make a mistake you give them a little check mark, same with fighters, if the do something wrong they get a check mark. Look at Palhares, they give you a warning and now you have to work on it. Do something, go take a class, if you don’t understand the ground game go learn it, that’s the only thing to do. One time at a fight back in the IFL days, they asked me at the end of the night how they did and I said horrible. They were in shock and I told them give me addresses and I will send them for free my Big DVD of Combat and it will fix everything.
“I even mentioned that B.J. said it was the best instructional, I always say that now, but they didn’t give me an address, they didn’t even want to learn. This is what happened at that show, there was a referee who two times stopped a guy that had a full on triangle choke. The guy did not know what a triangle choke was and he broke them up. Another thing is, if you watch GLORY, the referees. When Saki got kicked in the armpit and the ref said it was an eight count, he just took that round away from Saki. That is why I say in boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts you need to have instant replay. When a fighter says, ‘Please it was under my armpit,’ it would take them literally ten seconds to that tuned up because as soon as it happens most of the time in the production truck they already marked it. All they have to do is a push a button at that moment and it automatically goes five seconds back. They could go through it really fast, give the fighter his point back and it’s done, I think sometimes that needs to happen because in a three round fight, losing one round is a big thing.”
Another combat discipline that Bas is very familiar with on a professional level is kickboxing. With the rise of GLORY and Lion Fight Promotions in the U.S., it looks like kickboxing and Muay Thai are finally receiving their long overdue recognition from mainstream America. BJPENN.COM asked Rutten what he thinks of these promotions and what they need to do to become big in the States, Bas replied, “I really like the GLORY promotion, they are doing a really good job and I think they need American champions. I think it is important for GLORY to have American champions because the reason that Pride went down, sure they had all the Yakuza stuff, but it was because they had no more Sakuraba. There was not a Japanese guy who would come close to winning the whole thing and the same thing with K-1. It’s ok if four years in a row a foreign guy wins but eventually people want to root for their own. In America they want to scream for an American who wins the whole thing, and if he makes it to the finals that will be good. If he gets canceled out and doesn’t even go to the final eight, that is not a good thing. Another promotion I really like is Lion Fights, they are doing Thai Boxing and it is a really good show.”