A BASN interview with Bas Rutten

By Tom Donelson
Updated: March 2, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Just recently, Bas Rutten, Vice President of IFL and trainer of Mixed Martial Artist star Kimbo Slice, gave me some interesting tidbits about the Mixed Martial Arts.

He was a MMA star in the 90’s and began his career as a star in Japanese Pancrase system, the precursor to the present Mixed Martial Arts. Rutten explained the present popularity of the Mixed Martial Art by noting the sport goal is “to find out who is the baddest man in the universe.”

Many of the Pancrase stars became instant stars in the original UFC as Rutten noted, “I learned how to combine the Mixed Martial Artist in Pancrase.”

Mixed Martial Arts have split in many forms and leagues. We have International Fight League, Pride, Showtime XC and of course the UFC among the various MMA organization.

After the Showtime introduction of Kimbo Slice, XC promoter Gary Shaw issued a challenge to the UFC that his fighters are ready to challenge for UFC for who are the best Martial Artist.

When asked about it, Rutten stated, “Each organization should develop their own stars and if the public want unified championship; it will happen.” Rutten’s point was that there is no need for unification but instead allow each organization to put their own stamp on the sport.

The advantage that the Mixed Martial Arts have over boxing is that there are varieties of martial arts throughout the world. MMA have emphasized the synergy of various fighting styles into one and this does lend itself to different organizations with different emphasis.

MMA is in its infancy when it comes to the sport and as the sport matures and evolve; eventually recognized champ of each division will happen. Boxing, on the other hand, is a singular sport and the various boxing organization only stands to confuse the issue on who is the champion and who is not.

The other aspect of the Mixed Martial Arts is the development of personalities and stars that drives the sport. Kimbo Slice is one example. He became a star as a result of his many fights on YouTube.com.

Going into Mixed Martial Arts and under the tutelage of Bas Rutten, Slice quickly picked up the needed skills to succeed. Still early in his career, Slice became the headliner of a recent Showtime show.

Rutten sees each organization adding to the popularity of the sport and even on local levels, local organization are developing new stars. In Iowa, Mainstream Martial Arts have built their own organization as inexperienced martial arts learn their craft before moving up the MMA hierarchy.

It would seem counter intuitive to have different organizations splitting up the sport but the MMA have so far broken all the rules. As I have noted before, each organization have set up their own business model and keep experimenting.

Rutten’s involvement in the IFL is instructive. The IFL has changed their own strategy as they moved from a team concept to a group concept. The group concept is similar to the team concept but the IFL have also added individual competition to boast star power to its league.

About the group concept, Rutten noted, “Each of the fighters trained together and often give each other pointers or secrets. This has produced better fighters as these fighters want to see their partners become better since their groups win; they win.”

Rutten added that he would like to see groups outside the IFL to challenge the IFL group to add more excitement. The Mixed Martial Arts are allowing different business models to flourish and eventually one will predominate as the sport continues its growth.