Bas Rutten, a former UFC heavyweight champion and a three-time King of Pancrase, will be inducted this July into the UFC Hall of Fame, promotion officials announced Friday.
The UFC announced the induction in a statement released to reporters on Friday. The news was subsequently reported by Dann Stupp of MMAJunkie.com.
Rutten, 50, who now works as an MMA commentator for AXS TV and various other broadcasts, said in a statement:
I never expected to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. 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.
"El Guapo" Rutten is one of the first fighters to be inducted under a new UFC Hall of Fame structure, which groups inductees into four categories: modern era, pioneers era, contributors (for non-fighters) and individual fights. Rutten will be enshrined as a pioneer of the sport.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Rutten finished his pro career with a record of 28-4-1. His signature weapons in MMA included the palm strike (closed-fist strikes were not permitted in the Pancrase promotion, where Rutten spent much of his career) and a nasty liver shot.
He collected wins over fellow luminaries like Frank Shamrock, Kevin Randleman and Maurice Smith.
Rutten joined the UFC relatively late in his career, making his Octagon debut in 1999 at age 34 and to much fanfare. That was UFC 18, and he defeated Tsuyoshi Kohsaka by knockout. At UFC 20, El Guapo defeated Randleman to become the fourth heavyweight champion in UFC history.
Later in 1999, multiple injuries forced Rutten's retirement. But his good looks and quirky charisma made it fairly easy to transition to a career as an on-camera personality. He tried his hand at acting and in similar capacities before eventually settling into his current roles as co-host of Inside MMA on AXS TV and color commentator for the World Series of Fighting Promotion.