Bas Rutten cover photo

UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten on Fundamentals of Self-Defense, Savage Fight Stories, How He’s Handled Bullies, Breathing Techniques for Increasing Stamina and Endurance, The Art of Personal Reinvention, and Cultivating the Practice of Prayer | Tim Ferriss Show #621

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  • Bas snuck into the movie Enter the Dragon and was inspired by Bruce Lee: he was a skinny guy that could defend himself and fight off the bullies 
  • Bas worked as a sous chef, model, and bouncer growing up, which each prepared him for his martial arts career in different ways 
  • He KO’d his first Pancrase opponent and the man didn’t wake up for two days; Bas was so scared that he considered not fighting again if his opponent didn’t wake up 
  • “It’s better to have a skill and not need it than to need a skill and not have it.” – Bas Rutten on self-defense training 
  • Try to train under pressure and simulate pressure as much as possible in training
  • It’s better to know a few techniques very well than know a lot of techniques poorly
  • Don’t let your ego control you; only fight when you absolutely need to because you can die
  • Bas Rutten wakes up at 5:30 AM, prays, and is in the gym at 6:00 AM
  • Pleasure is not the same as being happy; mindlessly feeding your pleasures creates vices and makes you a slave to your desires 
  • Be a man that overcomes his weaknesses, vices, and imperfections 
  • Bas is a legend in Sweden for beating up five “mafia bouncers” at once
  • “There is nothing more important in your body that you can control than breathing.” – Bas Rutten 
  • 95% of people breathe wrong; you should be breathing from your diaphragm, not your chest
  • Bas Rutten created the O2Trainer to help people train their 11 pounds of breathing muscles and 5X their oxygen uptake 


  • Sebastiaan “Bas” Rutten (@BasRuttenMMA) is a Dutch-American actor, former mixed martial artist, kickboxer, and professional wrestler. He was a UFC Heavyweight Champion and pioneered the rise of Pancrase in the 1990s. Bas has appeared in many movies, TV shows, and video games, and remains involved in the MMA community to this day. 
  • In this conversation, Bas Rutten and Tim Ferriss discuss Bas’s childhood, his many careers before and during his MMA career, Pancrase, Pride, the UFC, self-defense, Grand Theft Auto, the famous bouncer story in Sweden, religion, how 95% of people breathe wrong, and what can be done to fix it 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes for more insights from the Tim Ferriss Show 
  • Host – Tim Ferriss (@tferriss

The Strong Martial Arts History in the Netherlands 

  • “We are such a small country, and we really like the people in the world to know that we exist, maybe.” – Bas Rutten 
  • Dutch kickboxing was born after some Dutch martial artists went to Thailand and got their “butts kicked” against the kickboxers there; they came home and decided to combine Western boxing with the kickboxing they observed in Thailand  
  • The Netherlands has the tallest people in the world who can fight as natural heavyweights 

Bas Rutten’s Childhood: Breathlessness, Bruce Lee, Bullies, & Birds

  • He contracted rheumatic fever at age four, which he preferred to contract over leukemia
  • Bas was born with eczema that went away but returned again at age 6  
  • He was bullied in school and was referred to as a leper 
  • Bas spent much of his childhood climbing trees and interacting with birds because he didn’t have any friends; everyone thought he was contagious 
    • He was mesmerized by birds and they would follow him around 
  • Bas snuck into the movie Enter the Dragon and was inspired by Bruce Lee: he was a skinny guy that could defend himself and fight off the bullies 
  • His parents finally let him start martial arts after two years of pestering them every day about it 
  • Bas was beating some of the adults in the taekwondo classes within months of starting and began to gain some confidence in himself
  • He finally stood up to the biggest bully in his school, knocked him out with one punch, and broke his nose
    • The police came to Bas’s house that night and confirmed his parent’s view of martial arts: it was violence 
    • He didn’t tell his parents he was being bullied because he didn’t want them to worry 
  • His parents took him out of taekwondo following the incident 
  • Bas continued to take care of the school bullies, though, making a list and handling them one-by-one

Young Bas Rutten Walking Away from Culinary School & Modeling 

  • Bas always wanted to be a chef growing up, but his interest in it dwindled after he was exposed to martial arts 
  • He worked as a sous chef for three years but quit because the head chef was not a great guy 
  • He also worked as a model for three or four days a week prior to going all-in on martial arts
  • His model career ended because he kept showing up to shoots with shiners from kickboxing 

How Pancrase Entered the Picture 

  • Bas ran into a fight promoter at a party, and drunkenly agreed to a fight with Frank “The Animal” Lobman 
  • After not fighting competitively for two years, and on two weeks’ notice, Bas fought Frank Lobman and was knocked out 
    • Bas thought this was the official end of his competitive martial arts career 
  • His karate teacher came up with the idea to film choreographed, over-the-top fight scenes at nightclubs 
  • Bas began traveling with his coach to put on these choreographed shows throughout Europe 
  • Pancrase promoters saw Bas and thought he’d be great for their company 
    • Pancrase is a mixed martial arts promotion company founded in Japan in 1993 by Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki
    • The rules were based on professional wrestling 
  • His first fight in Pancrase was a one-round, 30-minute match with a man much heavier than him
    • There was no weigh-in, and he didn’t know the rules of the fight until right before it started 
  • Bas Rutten won by knock-out with a knee to the head
  • His opponent didn’t wake up for two days after the KO, and Bas was considering not fighting anymore because of how scary it was 
  • In the days after the fight, people on the streets of Japan would bow to Bas as he walked by
  • He became a known guy overnight: “It was the weirdest experience ever”. 

Pancrase Rules

  • The Pancrase rules were tailor-made for Japanese fighters, who were generally good on the ground, but not good strikers 
  • The rules called for open-hand striking, which was conducive for fighters that wanted to go for chokes and leg-locks 
  • Shoes and shin protection were worn, which made leg locks more lethal 
  • However, Bas had experience with open-hand striking from his days as a bouncer
  • Pancrase had eight guys that went on to become UFC champions 

On Fighting Masakatsu Funaki & Minoru Suzuki 

  • Bas Rutten was the first guy to beat Minoru Suzuki 
  • As the champions, Bas had his rematch against Funaki and knocked him out with a knee to the face 
  • Before the fight, Funaki went up to Bas and did the thumb-across-the-throat thing, which was out of character because Bas had always taken him for a respectful guy
    • Bas believes that Funaki did it for the audience 
  • Funaki was not “super strong” but made up for that with technique, according to Bas

Remembering Pride, UFC’s Japanese Predecessor

  • Pride was the biggest martial arts organization on the planet, and was way ahead of the UFC
  • A small show for Pride was 45,000 people 
  • Dana White brought Chuck Liddell to do a Pride fight and was blown away by the venue 
  • The television series The Ultimate Fighter came out in 2005 and propelled the UFC forward 
  • Fighters from Pride slowly started to migrate over to the UFC, and the UFC became a juggernaut 

Pranks & Absolute Monsters 

  • Mirko Cro Cop was a special force turned MMA fighter that was an absolute monster
  • Bas Rutten shares a story about helping Mirko Cro Cop punk Mauro Ranallo in a famous interview 
  • Bas Rutten put green tea into the piss cups that were used to drug test the fighters and tricked people into believing he could tell whose fighter’s cup it was by the taste, but he was really just drinking the green tea that he had previously put in the cup 

Self-Defense for Beginners

  • Start with the basics and emphasize footwork 
  • In 2020, Bas Rutten shot a training video with Amir Perets called 7 Skills to Save Your Life that teaches you how to protect yourself and your family 
  • Taking five classes is better than taking three classes; marginal experience can make a difference
  • “It’s better to have a skill and not need it than to need a skill and not have it.” – Bas Rutten 
  • Try to train under pressure and simulate pressure as much as possible in training
  • Start with improving your situational awareness and your fighting stance 
  • People often get a false sense of security after taking a few self-defense classes

Self-Defense for Bouncers 

  • Take the two people in conflict and separate them from everyone else
  • Bas Rutten was a good bouncer not because he could fight, but because he was good with people 
  • People often get into fights for “very stupid” reasons; break down the misunderstanding and both people realize that the whole situation is stupid
    • Alcohol is often the reason for the misunderstanding 
  • Make sure to look at a person’s hands when you first approach them 
  • Always expect something and be on your toes when making the first approach 
  • Bas likes to have his back against a wall or in a corner if a fight breaks out, that way no one can sneak up on him from behind 
  • Don’t let your ego control you; don’t fight if they have a knife, for example, you might die
  • If they have a knife and you are in a situation where you have to fight, you must get something to separate yourself from him, such as grabbing a barstool 
  • Descalate by saying that you don’t want to fight, and demonstrate your superior ability by dodging strikes (if the encounter is avoidable) 
  • It’s better to know a few techniques very well than know a lot of techniques poorly

Grand Theft Auto IV 

  • Bas Rutten came up with the motion camera that all the video games use today 
  • Bas also has his own TV show within the game
  • The game has two ten-minute episodes called “In the Men’s Room” with Bas and Jeremy  

Catholicism and the Rosary 

  • Bas starts the first hour of every day with prayers 
  • Catholicism has made Bas a much better person; now, he thinks much more deeply about the things he does and says 
  • Bas Rutten wakes up at 5:30 AM, prays, and is in the gym at 6:00 AM
  • Bas has done Exodus 90 several times, which is “Lent on steroids”: 
    • No drinking or sweets
    • Three meals a day and nothing in between
    • No TV or phone use
    • No crazy music, only music that lifts the soul
    • Daily exercise
    • Only computer use related to work 
    • Only cold showers 
  • Exodus 90 revealed to Bas how much time he wastes on social media; it helped him put his life into perspective 
  • The most important commandment is to treat other people the way you want to be treated
  • Religion aside, treating people the way you want to be treated would resolve many of the conflicts we have in the world today
  • Pleasure is not the same as being happy; mindlessly feeding your pleasures creates vices
  • Be a man that overcomes his weaknesses, vices, and imperfections 
  • Be a man that is not a slave to his passions and desires, but a real man who is in control of himself 
  • Weak men are those who cannot control their vices, even if society views those vices as masculine, such as drinking, sex, loud music, etc.  

Who Picks Fights With Bas Rutten These Days 

  • “I don’t know what is wrong with some people.” – Bas Rutten
  • Today, Bas is less likely to get into a physical altercation with someone
  • He tries to tell people that not everyone they challenge will be as level-head as him

Bas Once Beat up Five Bouncers in Sweden 

  • Bas was at a bar in Sweden that had notoriously insufferable bouncers
  • They asked Bas to leave for no reason and escorted him out 
  • The bouncers escorting him out got physical with him, and a fight amongst them broke out
  • Bas was dropping bouncers left and right, and continued to do so until the police came and he was ultimately arrested 
  • Bas was taken to a jail built into a Swedish mountain 
  • The prison guards recognized him and gave him a TV, cards, cookies, and let him use their cell phones
  • He was sentenced to six to nine months, but the bouncers ended up dropping the charges and he was released 
  • The bouncers at this bar were known as the “mafia bouncers”, and abused their connections within the police force to put people they didn’t like in prison 
  • The local paper did a story on the incident and mentioned Bas’s training course, and his sales went through the roof
  • Bas became a local hero with the Swedish people because everybody had trouble at that bar 
  • There is an animated version of the fight with Bas’s narration from the Joe Rogan Experience 

Re-Learning How to Breathe with the O2Trainer

  • The O2Trainer restricts air intake to strengthen your abdominal muscles and regulates your breathing form, training your body to properly take deeper breaths and more oxygen 
  • “There is nothing more important in your body that you can control than breathing.” – Bas Rutten 
  • Your lungs don’t do anything by themselves; they are just two bags, the only way for your lungs to open up is by chest expansion 
  • The expansion of your chest pulls air into your lungs
  • The average human being has about 11 pounds of breathing muscles 
  • Metaboreflex is when you’re “gassing out” in exercise, which happens when your body pulls the oxygenated blood in your legs away and sends it to your breathing muscles in your diaphragm, which is the body’s number one priority 
    • Metaboreflex’s bro-science definition: one part of the body stealing blood from another part of the body 
  • Your stamina increases when your muscles become more efficient and use less oxygen 
  • By training your 11 pounds of breathing muscles, they won’t have to steal as much blood from other parts of the body during exercise 
  • 95% of people breathe wrong: humans are supposed to breathe through their diaphragm, not their chest  
    • 4-5 breaths from the chest equal one breath from the diaphragm
  • Your lungs start to shrink after the age of 29 if you don’t do proper breathwork
  • Babies breathe correctly until they grow up to be about 5.5 years old   
  • Humans are the only animal on the planet who breathe incorrectly 
  • Bas Rutten has a list of medical journals on his website that show how proper breathing can help cure all types of ailments  
  • Humans have breathing muscles in their back that they’ve probably never utilized; the O2Trainer helps train those muscles in only four minutes a day 
  • Athletes getting a “second wind” is the result of their diaphragm being warmed up 

How to Incorporate the O2 Trainer in Your Exercise Routine 

  • Use the O2Trainer before your workout, not during 
  • Do 30 repetitions with your front muscles one day, 15 reps with your back muscles the next day, and repeat 
  • Gradually increase the 15 reps number for the back until it gets to 30 reps
    • Bas warns that you’ll be very sore if you do 30 back reps on day one
  • Go to for more

Additional Notes 

  • All the UFC fighters are jealous of Tony Ferguson because he has the best stamina
  • Watch Tony Ferguson in between rounds: he is relaxed and his shoulders aren’t moving up and down like a mad man
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