In this episode, Brian talks with former UFC World Champion and Hall of Famer Bas Rutten. Bas has great knowledge of the mind from a fighter’s point of view and shares many applicable traits that translate from fighting to life.
You will learn about…
- The #1 factor to be successful in a fight
- The importance of thinking you are not as good as you really are
- Tricking your brain into enjoying something you normally hate
- The #1 trait that all the best fighters have in common
- Bas’ answer to “The Million Dollar Question”
Rutten: So then I started tricking my brain. Constantly, every time when I was really tired, I’d go, “oh yeah, I love it! I love it.” I would tell myself the whole time “I love it” and boom, suddenly I started catching on. Then I started enjoying getting tired. Now I needed to get tired. It got me a high, getting really extremely tired. So I just forced myself. I always tell people I’m really good at telling myself what to do. Apparently I believe myself as well because it works – it works all the time.
Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance Coach, here and this week we’re honored to have as our guest on the Peak Performance Podcast an MMA legend, UFC World Champion, and UFC Hall of Famer, Bas Rutten.
Bas is a retired Dutch MMA fighter, a tae kwon do black belt, Muay Thai kick boxer, and former professional wrestler. He was a UFC Heavyweight Champion and a three-time King of Pancrase World Champion, and finished his career with an unthinkable 22-fight unbeaten streak. FightMetric, the official statistics provider for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, ran numbers on Rutten’s career. Check this out: They statistically proved that he belongs not only in the UFC Hall of Fame but near or on top of the list of the greatest fighters of all time.
In the 4 hours, 27 minutes and 8 seconds he spent as a professional fighter, Rutten scored 13 knockdowns without getting dropped himself. His significant strike accuracy was 70.6, the highest FightMetric ever recorded. He attempted a record 53 submissions and successfully swept his opponents a record 46 times.
He is currently a co-host of Inside MMA and is known for his charisma, good looks, great dance moves, and devastating liver kicks. He has capitalized on his celebrity status since retiring from fighting in 1999, working as an MMA commentator and appearing in numerous television shows, movies, and video games. A living legend.
Please welcome to the Peak Performance – fighting out of Tilburg, Netherlands – the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, former three-time King of Pancrase, and UFC Hall of Famer, Bas “El Guapo” Rutten. Bas, thanks for joining us on the podcast, man.
Rutten: That was crazy! I love those statistics. You know, that was the first time I actually found out things about myself when I heard those statistics. I went, “man, that’s actually pretty cool.” Very nice. Thank you very much, Mr. Buffer.
Cain: Fantastic. Well, Bas, thanks for joining us here. For all of our listeners that are mostly coaches and athletes, they all watch the UFC, they all watch Mixed Martial Arts fighting, and they all want to know how much of that is a mindset, how much of that is a mental game? What do you think?
Rutten: It’s all about the mind. Everything is created in the mind. I always tell the fighters we’re just talking about it; everyone says, “oh, it’s a 50/50, 50% physical, 50% mental.” I say it’s not. I say everything happens in the mind. The decision for you to get out of bed in the morning to get your breakfast is made up in the mind. Once you can control that, then it’s going to be perfect because then you can be calm.
I talk about this many times. Calmness beats everything. When I see fighters getting beat up by the coaches and they’re hitting themselves in the faces, I think it’s maybe for them to realize that they’re in the moment, at this moment, but it doesn’t work for me. You start overcommitting to punches. The mind is the master in everything in life. That is what I always say.
Cain: When did you learn that? Is that something you had a coach ingrain in you or did you always kind of have that sort of ice-in-your-veins cool mentality?
Rutten: That is the weirdest thing. I was a super-aggressive fighter in Holland when I was Thai boxing. Literally I would come out very technical, I would play my game, I would get hit once and I would destroy the guy. It worked really well in the first 12 fights because I knocked them out all in the first round except for one. So that worked really well. But once you start fighting really tough competition, that’s going to be a problem.
Then at one time – it was I also had a reason. I was partying, I didn’t train for three years, and apparently I accepted a fight because I was drunk and didn’t know I accepted it. Two and a half weeks before the fight this promoter calls me – “hey, where do I send the posters to?” I said, “what do you mean, what posters?” He said, “from the fight.” I said, “which fight?” He says, “your fight.” I said, “am I fighting?” So then we went over that and I realized, oh yeah, I kind of said that so I’m going to have to do this fight. When is the fight? In two and a half weeks. I shouldn’t have done that fight.
Anyway, I lost. That pretty much changed everything. I didn’t want to fight in Holland anymore because the throwback I had from one loss was insane. Everybody said suddenly I was the worst fighter. They forgot about the first 12 fights.
Then when Mixed Martial Arts came along, I started fighting in Japan. I think it’s maybe something with the audience. It was totally calm. While I was fighting I would realize this is the craziest thing ever – I was so focused I heard everybody talking.
There is this moment where I drop him with an eight count, he goes down, and your inner body wants to say run to the corner because there in Japan there were eight counts. If you run to your corner, as soon as you hit the corner that is when they start counting eight. So eight counts. That means every fighter, most of the time they run to their corner in order to give the guy on the floor the least amount of time to recoup. But for some reason I was thinking, “no, I’m going to throw it the other way” so I stepped over him, I gave him this look, I made eye contact, and then I walked really slowly back to my corner. I thought that will intimidate this guy way more than when I run to the corner.
When I came out of the fight – which I stopped in 43 seconds – and later on saw the magazines… Two months later they sent me the magazines from the fight and I saw my facial expressions, and I had no facial expressions. Every Thai boxing match that I had in the past I look like a complete animal. My face is screaming when I knock people out. Then there suddenly in Japan it was total calmness. There was no facial expression.
That is why I always come up with that name, the poker face. I truly believe that was when I really started putting things together. I was in complete control. It was really weird.
Cain: Fighters that you’ve trained and fighters that you work with – how do you get them to learn that? How do you get them to understand that you’ve got to be in control of yourself, because you can control your performance, and then learn how to control themselves?
Rutten: It’s a hard thing. Again the poker face comes. There are a lot of times where if they hit back and they have to go really hard on the back, they’re not allowed to make grimaces in their faces. It needs to stay calm. Everything needs to be calm. You need to tell your brain that you’re okay. Once you start squeezing your face muscles, you’re telling your brain it’s not okay. But the more calm you are, the more relaxed you are, the faster your reflexes are working for you.
The things is – and you especially know this with mental coaching as well, of course – that a fighter can be really good in the gym. I can tell him all the tricks and everything works perfectly in the gym and sometimes you think “oh man, this guy is going to go far.” But then the first fight comes along. The first fight is very understandable. Everybody has that. But once you go to the second and third fight and you cannot control those emotions, then it’s going to be very hard for a fighter to fight out later on.
What I’m saying is that you see these guys who you think they’re going to be world champions but they can’t perform under pressure. What I do then to the fighter – because most of the time they’re so proud that they’re going to fight they tell everybody they’re going to fight. “This is my first fight, I’m going to rip his head, I’m going to do this and that.” I always tell them: “Don’t say that. All of these words you’re going to have to eat up at the moment you’re going to walk into the cage. Now all these people that you’re talking to, they’re going to be in the audience there. Guess what? Now you can’t lose because you said you were going to hit his head up, you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that.” I said, “all that pressure you are going to carry to the cage.” Most of the time that is exactly what happens and then they lose.
So then I tell them, “Okay, the next fight you won’t tell anybody that you’re going to fight and we’re going to take a fight out of state where nobody knows you. If you win, when you come back you can say, ‘hey, I just won a fight.’ If you lose, you don’t even have to tell anybody.” Most of the time that trick works really well because then there is no pressure. People don’t fight for themselves. People fight for the audience.
My biggest trick, what I always said, is that I fight for me. It sounds very egomaniacal but it’s not because – they say “but you have to fight for your family because they need money.” No. Once I start being bothered by those kinds of problems I don’t perform at my best. But once I fight for myself and I don’t care what people say – because I learned that in all the Thai boxing, I stepped away from it – then that’s it. Then you’re much calmer and then you can compete at your very best.
Cain: I think that is such a great point too that you make, that you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to fight for yourself because you are the only one who is in there. I hear fighters a lot of times will say that “my toughest opponent is me and my focus is on there, going out there, and executing what I need to execute in my game plan.”
When you would fight, did you have a game plan that you went out there to try to implement specifically for your opponent, or was your game plan kind of the “I’m going to become the best Mixed Martial Artist I can be and go out there and just trust my training and let it happen?”
Rutten: Trust my training, especially when I started learning the ground game. I had this thing – and I still do it. I always think that I’m not as good as I really am. I think it’s a very important thing because I think people in general always think they’re way better than they are. For me that was a way of always pushing the limits, always going harder and harder.
I think it’s very important to train your brain like that and make sure you know everything. Once I start doing the ground then everything started coming together and I got obsessed with the ground fighting. That is when I really started getting confident and that is where the real me was born.
I always say it’s not about that; it’s about loving something. For instance, in school what were the subjects you sucked at? They were always subjects that you had no interest for. All the ones that you excelled in were the ones that you thought were fun to do. It’s the same as fighting. If you’re only doing striking because you feel great at striking but you neglected the ground fighting – what I did in the beginning, I didn’t really like the ground fighting – but then I have all these ways to force myself. I start tricking my brain (so to say) and I say, “wait a minute – I’m going to see if I can force myself to like it.”
For instance, I did this with getting tired. I did not like getting tired. Since I had severe asthma as a kid, that’s probably where it comes from. But in fighting that is not a good thing; you’re going to get really tired. So then I started tricking my brain. Constantly, every time when I was really tired, I’d go, “oh yeah, I love it! I love it.” I would tell myself the whole time “I love it” and boom, suddenly I started catching on. Then I started enjoying getting tired. Now I needed to get tired. It got me a high, getting really extremely tired. So I just forced myself. I always tell people I’m really good at telling myself what to do. Apparently I believe myself as well because it works; it works all the time.
Cain: Are there ways that you actually train that self-talk? Are there things that you do to help you with that or is that something that you just kind of figured out over the course of your career?
Rutten: It’s been always there. I think it all comes from – with the asthma attacks, for instance. I would lay in bed just sitting up. I needed to recoup from that. For like a minute I needed to catch my breath. That is how bad my asthma was. I couldn’t eat. It was very hard for me to drink. Most of the time you dip a sponge in water and you hope that you can get it in because you’re breathing 24/7. But I was always telling my mind, “listen, this is just for a week or for eight days; there are people out there that have it all year long.” I had eczema (horrible skin disease) everywhere on my face, my hands. I had to wear gloves. I got bullied a lot because of it because they thought I was a leper. That’s what they called me. I always thought people have it worse. There are people who have it worse.
I think my brain training started there. I told myself, “no, don’t go down.” Some people who say “I had asthma when I was a kid and that’s why it doesn’t go very well for me in life” – that’s BS. You’ve got to step away from it. The glass has always been half full with me and I’ve been always that guy. It’s just tricking the brain. Maybe it’s not even tricking. You just talk to yourself and if you just lay it out, then it’s not really that bad.
If you really go over a fight – this is what I tell my students. I say, “what is the worst thing that can happen?” “I’m going to get knocked out.” “Well, apparently you’re not going to feel that.” That is what people say. So what is the next thing? Tapping? Is that really so bad? If you let your arm be broken, that is a really bad thing, but for the rest that’s it. You can lose these two ways. You know what really is bad? When somebody completely dominates you. He knocks you down, he steps back, he tells you to get back up because he just wants to beat you up. That would be really bad. But with great matchmaking that will never happen. Most of the time that little talk will do something to them and that little talk I just had to myself before a fight. In the beginning when you’re nervous, I would just say: “What is the worst thing that could happen? There is a referee.”
That is why I didn’t want to fight in the first UFC because the referee couldn’t step in. People go, “oh, I think it’s cool, I think it’s tough when you do that.” I think it’s stupid when you do that. We saw many occasions somebody gets knocked out and when he’s out, he’s getting drilled in the face 6-7 more times. Well, that could be permanent and I have a family that I love very much. I’m not one of those guys who says “I’ll die in the cage.” Not me, dude. I would like to be with my family. If there is a way I can get out of it, I’m going to be out of it. It’s going to be tough because I’m not going to let you finish me. But that I thought was very dangerous. Once they had a referee what is the worst thing that can happen? The referees are going to jump in and that’s about it.
It’s your ego. Once you can step away from your ego – and again this is people outside, this is your family, friends, everybody who knows it better but has never been in a gym – they’re complaining about you. Once you realize that those people don’t know anything, they don’t know, they never did it – so why would you be bothered by what they’re saying? When you let that go, that is freedom.
Cain: I love that. That is fantastic. Bas, talk a little bit about the maturity of the athlete and learning to just simply control what you can control and let go of what you can’t.
Rutten: It’s just getting better all the time. I always mention Oscar De La Hoya, Georges St. Pierre. There’s all these bunch of fighters that always learn new things. Evolving. It’s all about that. They all know it. They all say it in interviews – other guys – but they don’t do it. That I don’t like.
You have a guy – oh, hit him in the belly because if you hit that guy, he went five times down with a liver shot so chances are you can drop him with a liver shot again. Can you imagine if you would be that person that they’re talking about? If somebody says, “oh, if you fight Bas Rutten, hit him in the liver and he is going to go down?” I would make sure 100% that you could never hit me in the liver. But for some reason, that person, every time they can drop him to his liver. This is a real person as well.
I go work on your weaknesses. It’s so in your face but people don’t do it. Once you do it, truly do what you’re preaching – well, everybody can be good. I’m just a guy like anybody else. It’s just hard work and dedication.
Cain: You run a podcast that is one of the best out there. On your podcast you’ve had guests like UFC fighter and champion Dan Severn. You’ve had Royce Gracie on there. You’ve had WWE Ike on and creator of the Yes! chant, Daniel Bryan. You’ve interviewed Dan Henderson, who just had a great fight with Michael Bisping. What are some of the things that you have learned that have stuck with you from interviewing some of these icons in the world of Mixed Martial Arts and wrestling?
Rutten: We all have the same mindset. Especially if you talk to the good guys. If you talk to beginner fighters, they will have completely different answers than once they start maturing as well. They realize that talking can put a lot of pressure on you. If you talk like that to Dan Severn, Dan Henderson, all these guys, Frank Shamrock – Frank is a good friend of us as well – they’re all calm, they’re all relaxed. It’s simply just looking at other people. I’ve been doing that my entire life.
In an interview if you hear somebody – any artist. It doesn’t matter what artist we’re talking about. It can be a musician, an actor, whatever. They always say “don’t give up.” They all say that. There is always that moment of I wanted to quit but then I pushed a little further, and boom, suddenly there was the success. Once you start listening you realize that hundreds of great stars are saying all the same thing – “don’t give up.” So you put it in your mind – don’t give up. If you talk to a Dan Henderson, yeah, that’s calmness. Dan Severn, calm. You already touched Renico too. We didn’t have him on our show. But also everything is about calmness.
Automatically if you go… I did it a long time back but I’m pretty sure that every other athlete that is coming up right now (Mixed Martial Artist) – they should listen to that because they all pick out that similarity thing, which is being calm and just pushing. We’re nothing special. Just put a lot of hard work in. That’s the trick.
Cain: Bas, I always like to ask my guests what is the book that you would gift the most to other people? Or what are the books that have had the biggest impact in your life?
Rutten: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I really took that to heart. And another book is The Greatest Salesman in the World – I really like that as well. It takes ten months to read for the fact that every chapter (and there are ten chapters) you are going to have to read three times a day. It takes about five minutes to read. You have to do it when you wake up, and then you have to do it during the day, then before you go to sleep. Matthew McConaughey was in The Actor’s Studio and he was talking about that book and I go, “hey, I would love to have that book.” These are all things that I already did. But what you’re doing is you’re just training your brain because once you read it three times a day, in like 12-13 days you’ve memorized it. You can literally just say it without the book. Then you’re telling yourself. It always helps to revisit moments, things that you already knew but you forgot.
It’s like when I teach seminars, I tell people: “Bring a notepad because I’m going to be here, I’m going to give you your money’s worth. If I really want to teach, you’re going to get five techniques in the next five hours and you guys are not going to like it – so let’s write down what we’re doing, let’s give you 30 techniques so you’re going to get your money’s worth. But if you don’t have a notepad, you’re going to forget the first ten techniques. You’re going to forget because it’s going to be an overload.”
That’s what it is with this book. You know it, but once you read it you go, “Oh man. Yeah, I used to do that, but why don’t I do this anymore?” You’re training your brain. So those two books I always tell people to get them.
Cain: Fantastic. Both of them are in my collection for sure and I would echo the same message. Both fantastic books. Bas, I also like to ask our guests what are some of the habits that you have in your life or maybe you had when you were still fighting? What are some of the habits that have helped you to be the best in the world?
Rutten: Everything with me is about habits. I think that habits are the most important thing there is. It’s creating good habits.
I have this speech that I do for these kids when they go from high school. I talk to these kids from high school to college and it’s like 500-600 kids that I’m talking to. I open with this one. I say, “by show of hands who woke up this morning, hit the snooze button, then ten minutes later hit it again, then ten minutes later hit it again, then maybe after the third or fourth time you get up?” And boom, 90% of the hands went up. I said: “That is a bad habit and you can change that habit – in a week it will be gone. Before you go to sleep now tonight you’re going to tell yourself ‘tomorrow when I hit the alarm button I’m going to sit up in bed and I’m going to walk out.’ The first time is a little hard. The second day it’s easier. The third day is a lot easier, and in seven days you’ve created a new habit.”
The great thing is you can do this with anything in life. It’s just switching bad habits into great habits. That’s what I did my whole life. I just find my routine. Like my stretching routine. Many people always ask, “what is it, because you’re always talking about this?” My stretching routine has always been the same from the first day I started competing professionally till now I do the same thing. They say, “Why? You have to do all these others stretches.” I say, “this stretching routine (it’s a short one, it’s a ten-minute stretch) never gave me any injuries – why would I change a winning thing?” That is what I do with everything; I’m always pushing the habits.
I tell myself tonight or today, this morning, I’m going to do twelve rounds on the back as hard as I can. Because I trained my brain to do whatever I tell myself to do, I have to do it. I’m so bad that if I would not do it, if I would stop at eleven, I can literally not look at myself in the mirror that night because I am ashamed of myself. That is how much I have trained myself to do what I tell me to do. Being on time. Those are things that everybody should do. Why would you be late? I’m on time for you. You be there on time for me. That is why they invented time, by the way. It’s things like that.
Once you do that for a week – I have guys from Brazil who never did that but (trust me) a week or two weeks with me… Marco Ruas – he showed up every single time on time. This is very hard for a guy who had been 40 years living in Brazil and who don’t do that because it’s just not in their culture. They don’t do it. But once you do it – once I am training at 3:00 and he comes in at 3:45 and I’m almost out now, I’m almost done with my workout. “Yeah, but I just arrived here.” Yeah, I said 3:00. Now on the second day suddenly they are there at 3:00 because otherwise they’re not going to have a workout. That is the way I do it.
To me they say, “Bas, I’ll be there at 11:00 but wait 5-10 minutes.” No, you said you were going to be there at 11:00. I’ll be there at 11:00 and you be there at 11:00, and if you’re not, I’m leaving. “Yeah, but can you wait till I’m there?” No, you be there at 11:00. Those things you can train with everything in life. I truly believe if you do that with your training methods, you just become a great guy in whatever sport you do.
Cain: You talked about the importance of being on time, the importance of hitting your alarm clock, getting your feet on the ground, going out and attacking the day. You talked about the importance of habits. What are some of the other fundamentals that have helped you to be so successful? What are some of the other fundamentals that you’ve seen that if our listeners would apply in their life (maybe it’s journaling, maybe it’s having a coach, any of those things that you’ve seen) that would help them to close the gap from where they are to where they want to be?
Rutten: With me it’s really weird. I taught everything myself. I taught the ground fighting myself. I had a coach in Holland and Amsterdam but I went there twelve times in my entire life.
It was just watching things. Don’t be afraid of seeing something and thinking “that’s it.” Just because somebody does it or somebody writes it, that doesn’t mean it’s true. “I read on the internet” – yeah, okay, never mind. I need some proof. That is what I’m doing. What I did with ground fighting, for instance, is I would simply see a technique and then I would say to a friend of mine, “do it on me; I can do this and I can escape.” Then, okay, “how can I prevent this?” Then I start working with it. I think that is the most important thing.
Now the good thing was that I didn’t have a teacher, so that means I wasn’t offending anybody. I understand if you have a big-name fighter to look up to, you have to do it his way or the highway. A great coach would say – like I say, I teach only twice a week but I tell my students, “go anywhere you want, any gym; go anywhere you want – don’t worry that I’m going to be angry” because I know, deep down inside I know they’re not going to get anywhere else what they’re going to get with me. If I’m invested in something, I’m invested. If I commit, I commit. There you go. That’s the habits. Since I didn’t have that coach, I couldn’t offend anybody. I would say “I can make this better.” “Oh, that’s an ego thing.” No, it’s not an ego thing. This is just from a long time ago and I think I can make it better. Once you start working with it you start understanding it better.
You know, the thing that I always say to people as well is everything has a reason. A submission works a certain way. You have to understand a submission. And 90%-100% of the fighters will say “no, I understand.” No, you don’t understand. You know what it looks like and you know – because if you know it, more people would get tapped with a simple figure-four arm bar. But they do it wrong. The head should be in the line or lower than your shoulders. If the head is higher, people escape.
You watch UFC, Bellator, big organizations; once they go for submission, they do it wrong. This is a white belt move. They don’t understand how it works. If they would understand what would happen if they bring that hand down – wow, now you can lift the elbow two inches. If you bring the hand up, you can lift the elbow all the way, elbow and they roll out. I mean, once you understand that, then it’s easier to absorb the techniques.
Because I taught everything myself I was understanding it, because I’d say, “okay, it hurts there, it hurts there; okay, I can do this to escape, try to stop me now; okay, yeah, that’s a good one but still I can escape.” Then I would go for an escape and right into a counter technique. Okay, now he knows this. Let’s see if I can do another counter technique. Wait a minute, a straight arm bar. Okay. I roll with my guy. I do it three times on him. Suddenly he knows (of course) what I am going to do because I have a certain path to that straight arm bar. Okay, so now he can stop me. Wait a minute, let’s create a different way to do that same arm bar. Okay, I get creative. Find another way. Now I tap him again also 3-4 times (because my guy was a good guy as well). Okay, now I’ve got two ways. Let’s create another way. Once you start throwing those 1, 2, 3, sometimes even four, different setups for the same technique, once you start mixing those up, then you’re going to be successful because then you’re spinning the head of your opponent.
If there is just one way to do it, well, everybody knows that way. How many times do you see a guy getting submitted by a certain technique that nobody did before, then for two weeks straight everybody is getting submitted with that technique and then everybody is gone again because everybody knows the defense? That is what I’m saying.
In the beginning (all the way at the beginning) I made the mistake of learning to escape the arm bar. Thankfully, once I started committing and I got obsessed with ground fighting – oh man, I love it. It’s the worst thing that I cannot do it anymore because of my neck. Once I got obsessed with it I realized it’s better to learn the arm bar, because if you understand the mechanics of an arm bar, you automatically know how to stay out of it or how to escape it.
Cain: I love how much of a learner you were coming up and being self-taught and teaching yourself how to use all those different ground fighting techniques. Bas, now that you’re retired from MMA – I believe it was in 1999, is that right?
Rutten: Yes. Then I made one more fight in 2006. I thought I was injury-free but all the injuries came back. It was good. I stopped him in the first round. But it was really God telling me okay, it’s done, you’ve got to stop.
Cain: You can see that fight if you go to YouTube. You see he finishes it with a leg kick, I believe it was, wasn’t it?
Rutten: That’s it. That’s the one.
Cain: Love it. It’s fantastic. How do you, now that you’re retired from MMA… I think a lot of fighters I’ve worked with – their only definition of success for their life is if they get to wear a gold belt around their waist. Then for some of them that happens and for some of them it doesn’t. How do you define success for yourself now with where you’re at in life?
Rutten: That’s a big one. How do you define success? Whatever you love to do, if you can make that your profession, I would say that is it. Reaching your goal of what you really want to do in life, what makes you happy. If you can make that into – there is this saying that if you – how does it say? If you make your hobby your profession, you never go a day to work. That’s it. That’s what people say. But I think you have to choose it for the right reason. When you want to do something because money or fame is attached to it, that’s great – but if you don’t love it, you’re not really going to commit.
That’s what I always tell the people in school. You excel at the things that you like and you don’t excel at the things that you don’t like, so pick something that you love to do. It’s not all about fame and money. It’s about being a good person to others and just doing what you need to do because that you can take to your grave. That is fame for me.
People say “Bas Rutten? Oh, he was a nice guy, helped everybody, was always on top of his things.” After they do a whole list about my persona and how I helped people and what I tried to do, and then at the end they might say, “oh, you know what – he could kick some ass too.” The most important to me is to be there for other people and to help. If you find something that you really love to do and you can excel at that, that is the definition of success to me.
Cain: Love that. That’s fantastic. Thanks for that. I’ve only got two more questions here for you, Bas. The next question is, what is the difference between – you had a chance to fight in the UFC and fight in Pancrase and you also had a professional wrestling career. Like Brock Lesnar, you both held the UFC Heavyweight Championship. What is the difference as an athlete in MMA and also in going into pro wrestling?
Rutten: Thankfully, I did it in Japan, and in Japan they call it “strong style” and that means they use real submission moves. You know beforehand, of course, who is going to win. I could never do this here in America. It’s a different style. I don’t know this style because it’s not close to being real for me. In Japan – well, it’s all real moves that everybody uses so then it’s great.
What I did realize, though, is that I had way more injuries in pro wrestling than I did in real fighting. The reason is very simple: You let yourself get hit – something that I did not do in fighting. If you don’t treat it as a real fight, it’s like – how do I say that? If you don’t show respect to a small weight – all the problems in the gym always happen with small weights. Why? Because people don’t respect it. If it’s a heavy weight, now you watch your posture and you watch everything perfect. But if you pick up a little five-pound weight and you do it a little wrong – by you don’t squat your legs – and bop, something suddenly happens.
That’s the same in pro wrestling. If you don’t respect it – let me tell you, these guys here and over there in Japan also, the falls they make are real falls, trust me. People break their leg all the time, they have injuries all the time, because they do it 200-220 times a year. They just travel to the next show on a daily basis. Oh, now my knee is hurt from the fight. Well, guess what? You’re going to have to do ten more in these next two weeks, then you’re going to have a five-day break, then you’re going to start again. Injury-prone, very injury-prone.
That’s what happened with me. The first one, I broke a disc in my back. Without surgery they healed it. Then I ruptured an eyeball. Somebody had his finger in my eye because I didn’t block it because it was in the script (so to say) that he was going to hit me in the face. The third one was I ruptured my eardrum. The same thing – an open-hand strike to my ear which I didn’t block and my eardrum was broken for 6-7 years. I could not fix it because I was travelling so much and flying so much that they can’t fix it, because every time you go up and you put a patch on it (so to say) it will explode again (or have the chance to explode, to open up again), so it was useless. Those were just my first three pro wrestling matches.
My wife actually told me, “Why don’t you go back to real fighting? You have more injuries now than you’ve ever had in real fighting.” That I would say is the biggest difference. But then again, real fighting you have to really commit and you didn’t have to do it in pro wrestling. You can get by with just your basic shape, something that you cannot do in real fighting. You always have to push. My big rule is you can never have enough stamina in Mixed Martial Arts, or any fighting for that matter.
Cain: Awesome. Bas, I just realized that you are also a culinary chef. Is that something that you go to to kind of help you escape the pressure and the competitiveness of MMA? Where did you get turned on to culinary chef?
Rutten: That was my thing when I was a kid. I wanted to become a culinary chef. It was from like 6-10, then it went away and suddenly it came back around 17 and I went to culinary school. Then I started working at 20-21. I started working in kitchens. One thing led to another. I had a fallout with one of the cooks, who was also the owner who I helped for like two years I worked there.
I was a really good person to him because whatever I commit myself to I really try to do well, so I was a good cook. I could do – literally my record was 42 people in one night that I did by myself. This is appetizers, main courses, and I would get them. Not at the same time, of course. A table of three there. Four there. Three. I would take pride in that to see how many people I could do by myself.
Then there was one day that – on a Tuesday, for instance, never were there more than eight people that came in. So I would prepare for 25 people just to make sure. Put the mise en place – that’s how they call it in French. That is the preparation for all the sauces that you have at the ready – the basic sauces, because from a basic sauce you can make all these other sauces. There are a whole bunch of things that you have to prepare. For some reason, that day like 30 people came in so I ran out of the preparation that I had.
I ran inside the house, which is where the head cook lived (the chef cook and he was a boss as well) and he started yelling at me in the kitchen. I said, “listen, let’s stop yelling – let’s take care of these people first, and once we take care of these people you can start yelling at me and tell me what I did wrong.” “NO!” and he kept screaming at me. I said, “dude, we’ve got to do business here” and he kept on going. He said, “you do whatever I tell you to do” and I said “that is actually not the case.” He grabbed a big bowl of butter and he said, “if I throw this on the ground and I tell you to clean it up, you’re going to clean it up.” So I walked over to him, I hit the bowl of butter out of his hand, and I said, “ask me.” That was the last day I worked. It was already the time also that I found martial arts so then I went away.
I was heartbroken because of it. I did so much for that person and for him to treat me like that – he was paging me (there were pagers at the time) but I didn’t react anymore. I said, “no, that was not cool.” I tried to save it but that was it. I don’t even know why this story came up. It’s probably fresh in my head and still aggravating me.
But yes, at home I like to cook. I like to do little things. I like to have friends over sometimes and then surprise them with a nice little appetizer, a nice bouillon that I made for three days. I made it very strong, a very nice one, and a good appetizer. Then the main course and I wrap it up with a great dessert homemade by Bas. That’s kind of cool. Most of them don’t know – well, all my good friends know but if you have friends who don’t know it, that’s kind of cool because they go “you did this” and then they realize that was actually my profession.
Cain: That’s unbelievable. I never knew that. Unbelievable. A friend of mine who is one of the top coaches in the country, Joe Amplo at Marquette University, he is also a certified chef, certified culinary expert. I’ll tell you what – being able to sit down and have some food that he has prepared is unbelievable.
Bas, thank you for taking the time. Our last question here, my friend, is that if you could remove the skullcap of everybody listening to this – again, our audience is coaches, athletes, people that you are – you’re talking to yourself. If you could plant one seed inside of their head about something that you know now with the life experience that you’ve had that you wish you knew when you were younger, that if that seed would germinate and they would do it and it would improve their life, what would that seed be?
Rutten: This is a thing I use. I have no clue who said it. It’s one line and I tell everybody it and that should straighten everybody out. Just say, “how do you want to be remembered?” Just tell that person, “how do you want to be remembered?” If you catch the person at the time that he is drunk and crazy, then go, “do you want to be remembered like that?” If you’re a fighter or an athlete (let’s say a fighter), do you want to be remembered as the guy who was cheating? Who had a lot of talent but never really trained hard so that’s why you lost? Or do you want to be remembered as a good fighter? Even when you don’t become a champion, that guy that every champion is afraid of even, because they know that if they go to step in with you they’re going to have a hard time. This guy is always on.
That is a big question in everything you do. How do you want to be remembered when you’re dead and people are talking about you? Then you can make your decision. If you decide to stay partying, well, that’s how they’re going to remember you. If you think that’s cool – “that guy had a great brain but he threw his life away at partying,” I think that’s a stupid thing to write on a tombstone. So hopefully most of the time that straightens people out.
Cain: So I have to ask you, how do you want to be remembered?
Rutten: I kind of mentioned on that. I want to be remembered as the guy who was a good guy, who would hold doors open for people. If an older person comes on the bus and there’s no space, I will be the guy who stands up right away. I’ve been shouting to youngsters saying, “Get up – there is a whole group of old people coming. Your parents didn’t tell you anything?” I’m the guy who always tries to save everybody.
If people do something stupid in traffic and they start flipping me off and then suddenly they challenge me, I go out and I always put my hands up and say “guys” – because once I step out they realize they made a mistake. But I go, “no, I just want to talk to you” and then I explain to them what was going on. I say, “why on earth would you be so angry?” I always explain it to them and all of them 100% always go, “yeah, that was kind of stupid.” I say, “I know; next time just think about you don’t know situations from people.”
People cutting off on the right, the left, and they’re flying through traffic. Yeah, 90% of the time it’s just an A-hole, it’s just a bad person. I don’t like it. But I guarantee you there is that 10% chance that maybe somebody in a car there has a delivery, the baby is almost coming. That could be the reason he is speeding up. Until you don’t know exactly what goes on, you shouldn’t judge. Once you start living like that I think you’re a good person. That is how I want to be remembered.
People say, “yeah, he was a good dude, he helped people.” The e-mails I get from people who have kids or the kids who are e-mailing me who have the skin disease, who have the asthma – it’s an insane amount, but I always make time and I always make sure that I answer them because it’s going to help them. If you can do that, and then at the end, like I said before, they’ll say, “You know what? He was actually a pretty good fighter as well.” I think the most important thing is being a decent person to humanity. Do your part in humanity (I always say), then do the rest.
Cain: I love it. Bas Rutten, you’re off the hot seat, my friend. Thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest on the Peak Performance Podcast. So much good stuff that you just gave to our listeners. I love that question of how do you want to be remembered? As you’re saying that, I’m sitting here just taking notes and that is a question that I think our listeners have to go ask themselves.
With every podcast I try to summarize with what I think the #1 take-home was, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do it with this podcast because there was so much great stuff. I would encourage our listeners to start with how do you want to be remembered? And make sure you go over to www.BasRutten.com, check out his podcast, also follow him on Twitter @BasRuttenMMA. Bas, thank you so much. I can’t thank you enough.
Rutten: Godspeed, Brian. I appreciate it. I loved it. Thank you very much.