Punch, kick, triumph

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The modern era of mixed martial arts descended on the fight scene roughly 15 years ago.

Bas Rutten has been there for nearly every punch, kick, elbow, knee, leg lock, arm bar and submission along the way.

Doling out punishment in Japan in the early nineties in Pancrase (a wrestling style similar to the WWE, incorporating martial arts with actual wrestling and less entertainment), Rutten recalls a casual conversation he had with a fellow competitor about an upstart league in North America -- the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

KICKS TO THE MELON

It seems back then, he wasn't a fan of unnecessary kicks to the melon.

"I was in the dressing room with Ken Shamrock and he said he was going to compete in the UFC," Rutten explained the other day. "I didn't think that was such a good idea. I'm not afraid of anything, but when I get knocked out, I don't like extra shots to the head. And in the beginning of UFC there were no rules.

"I told him it was a bad idea," the three-time King of Pancrase and former UFC champ continued. "I mean, guys are going to be on TV and he's going to do his extra best to hurt you. You need a referee. I was not a big fan of it when it first came out.

"Once (UFC added) the referee to stop the fights, I was OK with it."

Rutten was in town this weekend to help promote the War Zone: Ultimate Cage Wars at the Winnipeg Convention Centre last night.

UCW, which is made up predominantly of local combatants, is an upstart MMA league and is one of many organizations popping up from the mat across the globe. The International Fight League (a team competition), PRIDE, UFC, UCW -- the list goes on and suggests the popularity of the sport is landing some major blows to the fighting world.

Specifically, boxing.

The 41-year-old feels MMA, despite the brutal, street-fighting stigma associated with it, is starting to win some respect among traditional fight fans.

An increased knowledge about the sport, the techniques involved, the amount skill needed to be successful, has helped. So too has the television coverage. The War Zone card was taped for the Fight Network, and will be broadcast some time in the near future.

'SURPASS BOXING'

"I predict that within maybe two years, it's going to surpass boxing," said the Dutch-born Rutten, who works these days as an instructor in IFL, a colour commentator and a fighter. "People like to know who the best fighter in the world is. People always thought the boxer was the best fighter but you put him on his back and he can't do anything. People understand that this is real, that if they don't tap out they're going to break something, then they'll get more respect.

"Boxing is easy to understand, you hit somebody in the head. With (MMA), you have a lot more ways (to win)."


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