While appearing on AXS TV’s INSIDE MMA tonight, UFC President Dana White surprised series host and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten by announcing Rutten will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame as part of the “Pioneers Era Wing” at a gala event during UFC International Fight Week July 11.
Watch Rutten’s live reaction alongside guest host Ron Kruck as White reveals the news in this video clip:
The Pioneer Era category recognizes great fighters who turned professional before November 17, 2000, when the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were created and widely adopted. All but one of Rutten’s 33 professional MMA bout were fought in the 1990s, with many of his greatest accomplishments taking place in Pancrase, which used hybrid rules, single-round fights and open-handed striking.
After dominating the competition in Japan, Rutten finally entered the UFC Octagon at UFC 18, on January 8, 1999. Hyped as the greatest MMA fighter in the world, he defeated Tsuyoshi Kohsaka by knockout and returned at UFC 20 four months later to defeat Kevin Randleman to win the vacant UFC heavyweight world title. Rutten was the fourth man to hold the UFC heavyweight championship and third former holder of that belt to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
“I never expected to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame,” Rutten said afterwards. “I won the UFC heavyweight title, but injuries cut my UFC run short. Most of my big wins were in Japan. I saw the new UFC Hall of Fame format and I thought maybe I could get in eventually as a Contributor because of my years of commentating. But I’m so honored that the UFC recognized what I did as a fighter.”
Asked about the biggest wins of his career, Rutten said: “My pro debut against Ryushi Yanagisawa, he outweighed me by 45lbs but I knocked him out. Then the two wins over Frank Shamrock, winning the Pancrase title from Minoru Suzuki, my two wins in the UFC, of course, meant a lot to me and beating Masakatsu Funaki in the rematch. He was the first person to beat me, he talked a lot of crap, and in the rematch for the title I slaughtered him.”
Born in Tilburg, Netherlands Rutten is the first European to join the UFC Hall of Fame. Now aged 50 and living in Los Angles, California, Rutten originally took up the martial arts as a child to fend off school bullies, who perhaps saw an easy victim in the asthmatic Rutten. Discovering a natural talent for striking, Rutten quickly moved on from school bully-level competition and, by age 20, was an established international kickboxer.
In September1993, he accepted an invitation to compete at the inaugural Pancrase event in Urayasu, Japan. The event – which took place two months before UFC 1 – featured submission wrestling mixed with striking, although no close fist strikes were permitted to the head.
Rutten’s first Pancrase opponent, Japanese kickboxer Ryushi Yanagisawa, spent two days in the hospital after the Dutchman dispatched him with palm-strikes and knees. On that night, the Dutchman’s career-long reputation as a terrifying striker was forged.
He defeated early MMA icons like Vernon White, Guy Mezger and future UFC champions Maurice Smith and Frank Shamrock twice each during this period. In 1995, Rutten won the King of Pancrase title from legend Minoru Suzuki. His finest hour in Japan came at the Pancrase 1996 Anniversary Show where the Dutchman avenged his first pro defeat, knocked out Masakatsu Funaki to win a classic encounter.
In 1999, Rutten signed with the UFC and immediate set his sights on the UFC heavyweight title, eventually beating Randleman on points. His plan was to immediately drop down to light heavyweight and become the first ever two-division UFC champion; however a series of injuries cut short his career.
He returned for a farewell fight – vs unheralded Ruben Villareal – seven years later in a WFA event in July, 2006. Rutten joins Contributor Jeff Blatnick and Fight Hughes vs Trigg II in the UFC Hall of Fame’s class of 2015.