UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten appeared recently on Submission Radio for a wide-ranging interview that included – as all MMA interviews do today – his thoughts on UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.
“He needs to defend his title now against Jose Aldo,” said ‘El Guapo’. “That’s first. He should have done that before already, I believe. So now he’s going to have to go back to 145, defend his title, then decide – If he wins or loses – but deciding if he wants to stay at 145, I think it’s going to be hard for him. I believe I mentioned it on the show before, I saw him one time on the day of the weigh-in, he was almost unrecognizable. He’s cutting a lot of weight. You can tell. His whole, he shirks. Everything shrinks. And then of course at fight time, then they gained a lot of fluids again and they look much more human. But just the fact that I saw him like that, I go, ‘ohhh he’s cutting a lot of weight.’ In the future it could be a problem.”
So can McGregor keep his UFC featherweight belt, and fight Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight belt?
“No, they cannot do it – well they can do it if they want, but that’s not going to be well received,” predicted Rutten. “I would say what you said, give up the title, then step away from it and go for the title shot at 155. That I can see happening. But both? No. I think there’s going to be a backlash. I think people are gonna speak up.”
The next question of course is can Conor beat Alvarez?
“I would love it for him to have the stamina that he had in the first two rounds [vs. Diaz], said Bas. “If he can go four rounds like that – and even the fifth round, if that’s a little shaky, that doesn’t matter. Three or four rounds, fighting like he did, he looked phenomenal. I mean, he was on point, his footwork was great, accuracy, everything was connecting. He did a phenomenal job.
“But fighting a guy like Alvarez, he fights different than Diaz. Alvarez is like an RDA kind of. If you look at it, he’s gonna brawl, put you up against the fence, start onslaught on you and then try to take you down. Now, I don’t know if with the footwork of McGregor it’s going to work, but eventually, you know, if he can press him up against the fence and he’s throwing heavy leather and then suddenly he comes with the takedown, that could be a problem for Conor. But if Conor looks like he did in the first two rounds against Diaz, I think we’re going to have a great fight.”
Another potentially huge event in MMA is the return of the welterweight G.O.A.T.
“I think that he just saw Conor McGregor and these pay-per-view numbers going up – and (McGregor) has got a lot of money. He made $22,000,000 last year. I think, ‘hmmm, maybe it’s time for me to come back and see if I can beat that.’ Because if he fights Conor McGregor, he’s gonna have a cut of that pay-per-view and that’s why of course he wants that fight. Every fighter wants to fight Conor McGregor right now because it’s a big payday.”
However, Rutten is not keen on a McGregor vs. GSP superfight.
“Nah. I rather see GSP against somebody with better takedown defense,” said Bas. “Because we know what’s going to happen – and even if you have great takedown defense, it’s still going to be hard not to be taken down by GSP. We know what’s going to happen, he’s going to take him down and then be on top of him. I don’t know if that’s going to be an exciting fight, you know, the whole time he’s on top. I don’t know if he can finish him once he has him on the ground, so I don’t know. [I’d] rather see him against Wonderboy or something like that. I think that would be a really good fight – GSP I’m talking about.”
“I think when he decides to come back, that means that he feels really good about his body and his mind, and I think we’re gonna see a great GSP. The later fights from GSP weren’t, you know, it was hold him down, take him down, keep him down and peppering him with punches. He didn’t really go for the knockout anymore like he used to. That’s why I said, in his last fight it looked like he didn’t have fun anymore. Once a fighter still (has) fun, and in training as well, you can tell. You can tell they want to be there. And to me, it looked like he did not really enjoy it anymore. I just had that vision when I would see him step in the octagon.”
“If he stays away from the injuries and he feels the same as I did – the difference is I was 42, he’s 35. 35, that’s a young age. I always said I was the strongest from 30 till 34. I would say that’s where I was mentally and physically, everything was in-sync. I was just really strong. So I believe you can fight really well till like 40 years old – especially a guy like Georges St-Pierre. I mean, he’s a specimen. He’s just a crazy athlete.”
“I think Georges can fight right away for the title. I mean, if he kept on training, I don’t think he loses anything.””It’s a big risk. For instance, with me, I was fighting Kimo Leopoldo first (when I returned) and it was not like he was a super fighter at the time anymore, but still, when he tested positive and I had a last-minute replacement (Ruben Villareal), now the pressure was way more on because there was no way I could lose to this guy because he took the fight on three days notice. So that pressure, if he’s going to get that, that can play out both ways. With me, I can deal with it easy. I don’t know how Georges is with that, but some people can work with it and other people can’t. If they do it on top of it in Canada, yeah he’s going to have a lot of pressure on him. If he can stay away from the pressure, if he can focus and just fight the fight, then he will do good. But otherwise, he’s gonna fight not to lose and then it’s not going to be an exciting fight if that would happen. And if it doesn’t happen, I wanna see him shine, man. I wanna see the old Georges St-Pierre back who is just dropping people left and right and submitting them.”
“It’s a big risk [though]. For instance, with me, I was fighting Kimo Leopoldo first (when I returned) and it was not like he was a super fighter at the time anymore, but still, when he tested positive and I had a last-minute replacement (Ruben Villareal), now the pressure was way more on because there was no way I could lose to this guy because he took the fight on three days notice. So that pressure, if he’s going to get that, that can play out both ways.
“With me, I can deal with it easy. I don’t know how Georges is with that, but some people can work with it and other people can’t. If they do it on top of it in Canada, yeah he’s going to have a lot of pressure on him. If he can stay away from the pressure, if he can focus and just fight the fight, then he will do good. But otherwise, he’s gonna fight not to lose and then it’s not going to be an exciting fight if that would happen. And if it doesn’t happen, I wanna see him shine, man. I wanna see the old Georges St-Pierre back who is just dropping people left and right and submitting them.”
For better and for worse, after Conor McGregor and GSP, the third figure getting attention is former WWE superstar CM Punk. Rutten very diplomatically conceded that Punk looks unskilled in training, but said that that does not always tell all.
“I think for a guy to give up a great career that he had in the WWE and to say, ‘listen, I know I just started with this, I just want to do it before it’s too late and I become too old, I wanna see how it feels.’ I really admire that first of all. But for him to do that, he knows he’s going to have a tough time.
“Now, the UFC of course didn’t give him the top ten opponent, which is a very smart thing. Let’s just see how he can handle the pressure and how he can fight. Now, if you look at [him] sparring, I’ve seen guys hitting the focus mitts where I’ve started laughing because I thought they were playing a joke. And then everybody looked at me very angrily because it wasn’t, and it was horrible. But then when they fight, they look great, and I never got that.
“I go, why doesn’t that technique that you show in the cage come out when you hit the focus mitts or the Thai pads? It’s so weird. So looking at sparring or things like that, to me it doesn’t mean a lot.
“I think the most important thing is how his heart is and his stamina. I hope that he’s going to have a boatload of stamina. He’s going to need it, especially for the first time. There’s going to be jitters. This is not the WWE, it’s something new. You fight in the UFC, everyone from the WWE’s going watch how he’s going to deal with the pressure. And I know he’s already been performing in front of people, so he’s probably going to deal with it just like a Sakuraba.
“Sakuraba came from Pro Wrestling, but he was in front of big audiences and that’s why they do well. I also compare it also to stand-up comedians. They know how to interact with the audience, they did it many times, it’s all live. So when a stand-up comedian does movies, most of the time they’re really good actors as well, and I think that’s the same applied.”