MMA Pioneer Series: Sebastiaan "Bas" Rutten


What’s not to love about Bas Rutten?  He is by all accounts, one of the most prolific Mixed Martial Artists of all time, a family man, a humanitarian, a certified Chef, and a fan favorite.   He’s known throughout the MMA community for his invaluable contributions to the sport, as well as for his larger than life personality, off-beat humor, and legendary commentating.

With that in mind, I think it appropriate to take a closer look at the life of El Guapo… 


Bas via


Sebastiaan Rutten was born in Eindhoven Holland on February 24th, 1965.  As a child, he suffered from several medical issues including asthma and a severe case of eczema.  In fact, the eczema was so severe that he had to routinely wear gloves and bandages on his arms.   Unfortunately, this often made him an easy target for hazing by local bullies.   This pattern of abuse continued throughout his adolescent years. 


Young Bas via


In 1976, during a trip to France, the direction of Bas’s life was drastically changed.  He and his brother snuck into a movie house where they saw a screening of Bruce Lee’s "Enter The Dragon."   From that moment on, Rutten was hooked on martial arts. 


Enter The Dragon via

Over the next 2 years, Bas consistently begged his parents to allow him to begin training in the martial arts.  Initially, his parents’ conservative views could not be swayed.  Eventually, they relented, when one of Bas’s neighbors (Bas has described him as "the cool guy from the city") helped him explain the benefits that martial arts training could provide.   

Sebastiaan soon began training in Tae Kwon Do.  It was immediately apparent that he had a knack for martial arts, and within 2 months, he was easily defeating brown belt level opponents.  He would eventually earn a 2nd degree dan (black belt).  Shortly thereafter, he entered Kyokushin Karate (in which he eventually attained a 5th degree black belt).  Soon, Bas was involved in several altercations with his former tormentors which left them bloodied and beaten, and led the police to come knocking at his parent’s door. 

Following the incidents, his parents once again forbid him from participating in martial training.  This ban remained in place until Bas moved out of their home at the age of 20. 

He immediately resumed his martial arts training and began learning Thai Boxing.  It was at that point that Bas began working as a Bouncer at local clubs to help finance his training.

His hard work and dedication paid off when he began competing in Muay Thai bouts.  He quickly compiled a record of 15-1 (with all his victories coming by way of TKO in the 1st round).  Prior to the only loss of his Thai boxing career, Bas was arrested for his involvement in a street fight.  He spent several days in jail and was released the day before his Thai boxing match.  As a result, he effectively gased out in the 1st round, leading to his defeat.  Disgusted by the loss, he spent the entire night shadow boxing in front of a mirror.  The following day, he returned to the gym and "cleaned the place out." 


Bas Thai Boxing


Bas then switch gears and began orchestrating martial arts exhibitions set to music with multiple elements such as Kata demonstrations, board breaking, and even comedy skits. 

Following one of the exhibitions, Bas was approached by an executive from the Rings Free-fighting organization (the now defunct MMA organization which operated from 1991-2002), who offered him the opportunity to come train with some of his fighters in Amsterdam.  Rutten accepted and was thoroughly worked over by smaller opponents who utilized various submission skills.  Following the sparring sessions, Bas was unable to drive home and ended up sleeping in his car.   Recognizing a glaring weakness in his skills, Bas vowed to master the submissions which had been used to best him. 

Approximately 4-6 months later, in 1993, Bas received a called to return to Amsterdam to attend a tryout.  Japanese pro wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki were there to scout fighters for their new hybrid wrestling / submission fighting organization, Pancrase.   During the tryout, Bas was matched with a world champion from the Rings organization, who he quickly defeated by KO (sending him to the hospital as a result).  Funaki and Suzuki were so impressed that they made an offer to Bas on the spot.  He accepted and within 2 months, was in Japan.




Rutten entered Pancrase like a whirlwind, brutally knocking out his 1st opponent, Ryushi Yanagisawa (the #4 ranked fighter in Japan at that time), who was rushed to the hospital where he spent 2 days recovering.  Rutten's striking was so powerful that, according to Frank Shamrock, it would often intimidate the other fighters.  He said, "His kickboxing was devastating.  It was something everybody feared.  The other thing he had was a basic understanding of real fighting.  Bas had that street fighter mentality."

In an effort to improve upon his submissions game, Bas spent time training with catch wrestling expert Masakatsu Funaki.  He also forged a training partnership with fellow Pancrase fighter Leon van Dijk, working exclusively on submissions fighting.

Following mixed results over his next few fights, Rutten put together a series of wins against future UFC champions Frank Shamrock and Maurice Smith and eventually challenged Minoru Suzuki for the title.  Bas won the match via guillotine, and began his reign as King of Pancrase.  After putting his title defenses on hold due to an injury, Rutten returned to the ring and beat interim champion Frank Shamrock for the undisputed King of Pancrase title.




El Guapo then avenged an earlier loss Masakatsu Funaki in what is considered to be one of the greatest fights in MMA history.  Bas had this to say about the fight:  "Before the fight when he came to me, he made that thumb over the neck, throat slashing motion like I was going to go down.  I turned to my manager and said, "Okay, now I'm going to kill this guy."  My game plan was to keep the fight going for 15 minutes.  Funaki had never fought above 15 minutes. But then, like 12 minutes into it, while I'm still on my knees he kicks me in the head.  I block, but for me that was an illegal thing to do.  So right away I start, BANG, BANG, BANG, and he goes down.  From that moment on, I totally destroyed him.  You got to see the fight; it was a massacre.  My palms were black from hitting him so hard.  He had the gods on his side or something, because he stood up every time.  I hit his face back on the mat and you hear it slam into the mat.  His nose is all the way to the side, broke, they have to straighten it out.  I go, "Oh my God, this guy can take a shot!"  I knee’d him so hard in the head, he went down four times. But the last knee I gave to him was like everything I had.  I grabbed him by the head and knee’d him, it was really like a Rocky movie.  I'm standing there and I fall backwards, and I'm totally out of breath.  I get up and the referee holds my hand up.  Then he lets my hand go and I drop again, BOOM!  I was exhausted, I gave everything I had; I really wanted to destroy him.  I broke his cheekbones and broke his nose; just because he said he was going to kill me.  Oh, I was so angry at him.  But afterward, friends again...what a crazy sport this is, huh?"


Bas Rutten vs Masakatsu Funaki


Bas would go on to become a 3 time King of Pancrase champion.  When he finally departed Pancrase in 1998, his undefeated streak stood at 19 fights.

Shortly after departing Pancrase, El Guapo entered to UFC.  He won his debut at UFC 18 against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka via KO.  That victory, coupled with his impressive background, earned him a chance to win the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship against Kevin Randleman.

At UFC 20, Bas and Kevin faced off for the belt.  Randleman controlled the early stages of the fight, inflicting damage while in Bas’ guard.  However, after the fight was stood up to check a cut, Rutten landed a devastating liver kick which turned the tide.   He then pounded away at Randleman from inside his guard, using elbow strikes to open up cuts on top of The Monster’s head and punching him to the face.  The fight went into overtime, with Rutten taking a close decision victory to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion.


Rutten vs Randleman via


Bas vacated the title later in the year, in order to drop down to middleweight (now the light-heavyweight division), in a bid to try and become the first person to hold a UFC title in two weight classes.  Unfortunately, while training for his next fight, Bas suffered several serious injuries including blowing out his knee, tearing both biceps, and suffering a neck injury.  His doctors insisted he retire from MMA competition to avoid irreparable damage.  He ended his career with a record of 28-4-1, with a 22 fight undefeated streak.


Date Result Opponent Event Method Round Time
07/22/2006 Win Ruben Villareal World Fighting Alliance 4: King of the Streets TKO/RSC 1 2:34
NSF 05/07/1999 Win Kevin Randleman UFC 20: Battle for the Gold Decision Split Decision 1 Title Fight
NSF 01/08/1999 Win Tsuyoshi Kosaka UFC 18: Road to the Heavyweight Title TKO/RSC Referee Stoppage from Strikes 1 14:13
NSF 09/14/1998 Win Kengo Watanabe Pancrase: 1998 Anniversary Show TKO/RSC 3 Lost Points 1 2:58
NSF 12/20/1997 Win Keiichiro Yamamiya Pancrase: Alive 11 Submission Rear Naked Choke 1 4:58
NSF 09/06/1997 Win Osami Shibuya Pancrase: 1997 Anniversary Show Submission 1 3:15
NSF 06/30/1997 Win Takaku Fuke Pancrase: Alive 7 Submission 1 4:28
NSF 04/27/1997 Win Kiuma Kunioku Pancrase: Alive 4 Decision Lost Points 1
NSF 03/22/1997 Draw Osami Shibuya Pancrase: Alive 3 1
NSF 10/08/1996 Win Manabu Yamada Pancrase: Truth 7 Submission 1
NSF 09/07/1996 Win Masakatsu Funaki Pancrase: 1996 Anniversary Show TKO/RSC 5 Lost Points 1 17:07
NSF 06/25/1996 Win Jason DeLucia Pancrase: Truth 6 TKO/RSC Referee Stoppage 1 8:48
NSF 05/16/1996 Win Frank Shamrock Pancrase: Truth 5 TKO/RSC Cut 1 11:11
NSF 04/08/1996 Win Katsuomi Inagaki Pancrase: Truth 4 Disqualification 1 14:07
NSF 03/02/1996 Win Guy Mezger Pancrase: Truth 2 Submission 1 19:36
NSF 12/14/1995 Win Ryushi Yanagisawa Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 7 Submission Choke 1 27:35
NSF 11/04/1995 Win Maurice Smith Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 6 Submission Choke 1 4:34
NSF 09/01/1995 Win Minoru Suzuki Pancrase: 1995 Anniversary Show Submission Guillotine Choke 1 15:35
NSF 07/23/1995 Win Frank Shamrock Pancrase: 1995 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 2 Decision 1
NSF 06/13/1995 Win Jason DeLucia Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 5 Submission 1 1:32
NSF 05/13/1995 Win Maurice Smith Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 4 Submission Knee Bar 1 2:10
NSF 04/08/1995 Win Takaku Fuke Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 3 Submission 1 1:52
NSF 03/10/1995 Loss Ken Shamrock Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 2 Submission Knee Bar 1 1:01
NSF 01/26/1995 Win Manabu Yamada Pancrase: Eyes Of Beast 1 TKO/RSC Referee Stoppage 1 1:05
NSF 12/16/1994 Loss Frank Shamrock Pancrase: King of Pancrase Tournament, Round 1 Decision 1
NSF 10/15/1994 Win Jason DeLucia Pancrase: Road to the Championship 5 Submission Guillotine Choke 1 1:43
NSF 07/26/1994 Loss Ken Shamrock Pancrase: Road to the Championship 3 Submission Rear Naked Choke 1 16:42
NSF 07/06/1994 Win Minoru Suzuki Pancrase: Road to the Championship 2 KO Knee 1 3:41
NSF 05/31/1994 Win Yoshiki Takahashi Pancrase: Road to the Championship 1 TKO/RSC Referee Stoppage from a Broken Shin 1 1:37
NSF 04/21/1994 Win Vernon White Pancrase: Pancrash 3 Submission 1 1:16
NSF 01/19/1994 Loss Masakatsu Funaki Pancrase: Pancrash 1 Submission Toe Hold 1 2:58
NSF 10/14/1993 Win Takaku Fuke Pancrase: Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 2 KO Knee 1 2:03
NSF 09/21/1993 Win Ryushi Yanagisawa Pancrase: Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 1 KO Knee 1 0:43


During his MMA career, Bas was widely known for his fondness of liver shots and his habit of doing his celebratory "Rutten Jump" (jumping split) after winning a fight.  He has said, "When I won my first fight in Pancrase, I was so hyped that I jumped up in the splits to each side of the ring.  Why?  I don't know.  But, it became my trademark and I had to do it after every fight that I won."




Following retirement, Bas has remained active in the MMA community in numerous capacities.  From 2000 – 2006, he worked as a color commentator and fight analyst for the Pride Fighting Championships. 

It was during that time that Bas acquired his now legendary nickname, "El Guapo."  Bas’ credits one of his favorite movies of all time, The Three Amigos (in which the lead villain is named El Guapo), with being the inspiration for his namesake.  Early on in his MMA career, he was routinely announced as "the self-proclaimed most handsome fighter in mixed martial arts."  Sometime later, while having breakfast with several Pride stars, Bas asked Tina Shamrock (Frank Shamrock’s then wife, who was Mexican) what "El Guapo" meant.  She replied, "that’s handsome."  As everyone departed, Kevin Randleman said "see you later Guapo," and the name stuck from there…     


El Guapo from The Three Amigos via


In 2008, Bas was named VP of Fighter Operations for the former International Fight League, while also moonlighting as the co-host of the IFL show "Battleground."  He currently hosts the weekly MMA show, Inside MMA on HDNET. 

In addition to his work in front of the camera, Bas remains actively involved in coaching and training.  He is currently the co-owner and an instructor at the Elite MMA Gym in Ventura County, CA.      

El Guapo also travels the country and world, contributing his expertise during MMA and martial arts seminars.  He has also worked as a consultant with U.S. military Special Operation Forces.   

For his countless accomplishments and contributions to the sport of MMA, we name Sebastiaan "Bas" Rutten, an MMA Pioneer......



Bas Rutten Highlights and Interviews:


Bas Rutten Highlight


Bas KO's and Submissions


Bas Rutten likes to Dance



Bas Rutten:  Secret to Kicking



Fighting Words:  Bas Rutten - Part 1

Fighting Words:  Bas Rutten - Part 2


Fighting Words:  Bas Rutten - Part 3





Fightings Word with Bas Rutten: Interview by Mike Straka Exclusive
Biofile Published by Scoop Malinowski

Up close and personal with Bas Rutten
by Hody Jae Huh   for



Previous MMA Pioneer Series:



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