There are few more popular and charismatic figures in Mixed Martial Arts than Sebastiaan “Bas” Rutten. The now retired UFC Heavyweight Champion, and three time King of Pancrase world champion has used his ebullient personality to forge an interesting career away from the Octagon, as both a trainer and media personality (hosting Punk payback on Fuel, Inside MMA on Ax’s and starring in a series of anti-bullying shorts for Nickelodeon) , and now as a movie star in the new film “Here Comes The Boom,” which opened Friday across the country. The film stars Kevin James as a high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school. Henry Winkler and Selma Hayak also have roles in the film, but the story line revolves around James and the quirky Rutten as he readies for his match in The Octagon.
We caught up with Rutten to talk Hollywood, UFC and What It’s Like To Roll With Selma Hayak:
You have had guest spots in several films, how did a feature in this movie come about?
“I have trained Kevin for almost 15 years. He is very serious about his training and loves the UFC and we have become good friends. A few years ago he told me about a movie and then when he showed me the script and asked me if I’d be interested in the character I said sure. We had worked together on some things with King of Queens and other places so it was a natural. The best part was he really took the training seriously and the cast made it easier for me. It was a lot of fun.
What was it like being on set for so long and setting up the shots as well as doing the acting?
They were all pros. It’s different being involved for weeks at a time, because things don’t move as fast and you have to take lots of direction to make sure it comes out well. But the cast…Henry was amazing and I was surprised at how much Selma was interested and engaged in MMA, she is quite a scrapper…they were first rate and made the movie experience for me so cool and I think that comes across in the film.
There have been a series of films involving MMA lately, Warrior being one other one recently, how will that help continue to elevate the sport in the mainstream?
This will go to a new level I think because it’s funny, it speaks to experiences everyone has in a tough economy and it appeals to women as much as men. It’s not bloody, it shows the personality of the guys and MMA across as a sport that has wide appeal. I have heard many women in screenings come out being surprised at how much they enjoyed the film and I think that helps the sport. I know the UFC was very pleased to participate and that’s a big plus.
How serious was Kevin in getting ready for this part?
Very serious. Even before I was involved he told me about it and he started prepping 14 months in advance. He lost almost 70 pounds and really worked hard, drinking all those horrible green shakes while we were walking around eating pizza. It was a lot of work and it comes across in the film.
With regard to the Octagon, what do you think of the state of the sport today and the business of the UFC?
It continues to grow in many ways, not just in professional MMA but on the grassroots and I think a film like this will help. The UFC of today is an amazing business and there are some great up and coming fighters that are being seen by millions around the world. I don’t think that will change any time soon.
Who are fighters you are watching these days?
The most intriguing guy I think is Stefan Struve, and it’s not because he is Dutch, but that helps! He is seven feet tall and has such great skills it will be interesting to see how far he can go and how he can adapt. I’m also interested in seeing how Georges St- Pierre is when he returns from injury. He will have a lot of pressure fighting in his hometown and will have to mentally overcome thinking about his knee but he has been another great ambassador for the sport. There are obviously many stories not just in the UFC but all around the sport, those are just a few.
Now that you have a feature rile in a film, is that where you will spend most of your time?
No not really, this was great fun but I’m super busy with Inside MMA and running my own training businesses. I love working with kids and doing the acting and if it grows that’s great. However I have plenty on my plate right now to keep things busy.