All talk? Hardly, but fighter excels as analyst

Posted: July 05, 2007

Mixed-martial-arts expert and TV announcer Sebastian "Bas" Rutten has mastered submissions fighting.

Rutten competed when fighters didn't use gloves to protect their hands on head strikes. He fought before the term mixed martial arts, or MMA, came to describe this hybrid of wrestling, boxing and submission arts, now one of the fastest-growing sports.

Rutten's experience as a fighter - he began his career in 1993 and has an MMA record of 28-4-1 - and colorful commentary make him one of the most respected announcers in the team-based International Fight League.

Like most accomplished analysts, Rutten can explain the nuances of his sport, the emotions of the fighters, and the intent of their techniques. New fans get a quick education.

And the IFL is gaining fans fast. It recently reported almost 2.5 million viewers per week for IFL Battleground on MyNetwork TV (locally on MYPHL17) and IFL Fight Night on Fox Sports Net.

"MMA should be in the Olympics," Rutten said. "It combines sports already in Olympic competition - tae kwon do, wrestling, boxing and judo."

Rutten, 42, was born in the Netherlands and lives in Los Angeles. A certified Thai boxing instructor, he is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion and a three-time Pancrase champion. Pancrase is a hybrid wrestling organization founded in Japan in 1993.

He has black belts in hard-style Japanese and Korean martial sciences, is a master of submissions, and is a trainer and coach of mixed martial arts.

Nicknamed "El Guapo" (Spanish for "The Handsome One"), Rutten is 6-foot-1 and about 220 pounds. The father of three daughters has no visible fat, just sinew and muscle.

His commentary for IFL fights, which are held in a traditional boxing ring, often features guy-at-the-bar-type humor delivered in a raspy Dutch accent.

Rutten got involved with the league this year as the voice of IFL Battleground's Monday night broadcast. He said he loved and respected the training aspect of the sport and the preparation by the fighters.

After fights, when combatants shake hands and hug, Rutten can analyze in depth what just happened because he has been in their position.

"Both fighters know mutually they each had a long, arduous, disciplined road to get to that moment of fighting," he said. "We respect the preparation. Both fighters have sacrificed pleasures."

So will MMA become more popular than boxing?

"Yes," Rutten said. "Look at [Ultimate Fighting Championship] attendance numbers. Look at how much the fighters are making now. Remember, these fights are on [pay-per-view], and the guys get a percentage of that. They're getting to be rich."

UFC presents individual competition in a cage similar to some pro-wrestling events. The IFL pits teams of fighters against each other. The organizations are independent of each other and hold matches mostly in California and Nevada.

Fight attendance, according to the UFC, is typically 9,000 to 13,000 per card. A record 19,079 attended a UFC event March 3 in Columbus, Ohio. The year-old IFL drew 6,977 in Seattle on Friday.

Fighters on UFC main cards are paid as much as $500,000, plus pay-per-view percentages, per fight. Salaries for IFL fighters ranged from $50,000 per year to over $100,000 per year.

Because of a torn biceps and bad knees, Rutten has been out of competition since last July. But he is often in the gym, training and coaching and compiling experiences to offer during his ringside commentary. His philosophy, like his fighting, is to say it like he sees it.

"Make every strike heavy," he said, "and the people feel that."

To see outtakes of announcer Sebastian "Bas" Rutten and samples of International Fight League fights, go to

Contact staff writer Kéita S. Sullivan at 215-854-4884 or

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