Former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten revealed the advice he gave to Justin Gaethje a few years ago.
Former interim lightweight champion Gaethje was last seen in action against former champion Charles Oliveira in May at UFC 274. Oliveira rocked Gaethje with the first punch he threw and scored an exciting first-round finish. Since he came in half a pound over the championship limit, the title remained vacant as Gaethje lost out on his second attempt at the undisputed belt.
The brawler is renowned for his fighting style, which saw him net ten performance-based bonuses in record time, and also received Fight of the Year honors twice, against Michael Johnson in 2017 and Michael Chandler in 2021.
In an appearance on the “PBD Podcast,” Rutten opened up on urging the human ‘Highlight’ reel to change his aggressive fighting style before he made his way to the UFC.
“Justin Gaethje, that’s a fighter who’s always exciting,” Rutten said. “But finally, I almost wanted to say thankfully but that’s a bad thing to say, he got knocked out twice. That made him a better fighter. I told him way before because he used to fight for the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and I was the commentator for that. I told him, ‘dude, stop that fighting style. You want to be able to talk to your kids once you have kids. It’s going to hurt you eventually.’
“He was like, ‘yeah but the fans love it.’ I said, ‘they don’t care. You lose three fights and you are a nobody anymore. Those fans? Are you really fighting for those fans? Be smart.’ Then when he got knocked out, suddenly he started listening to Trevor Wittman, his coach who is an incredible coach. Now he became a better fighter because of it.”
The two knockouts Rutten references are the TKO loss to Dustin Poirier and the knockout defeat to Eddie Alvarez.
Rutten Says Anger Works Against Fighters
As one of the most decorated fighters, Rutten understands what it takes to be at the top. The former three-time King of Pancrase world champion, widely credited for pioneering liver shots inside the octagon, expanded on his stance against being angry in competition.
“Once you lose control, you lose the fight. You need to control the anger. You need to be calm at all times. I had this coach in my last fight who came to me just before the fight, I went out. He took me and said, ‘can I talk to you outside?’ I go, ‘sure.’ He says to me, ‘listen, man, this guy tries to take food away from your family.’
“I go, ‘stop right there. I don’t need this talk because it makes me angry. I don’t want to be angry I want to control it.’”
He further expanded on how being angry can compromise technique.
“Once you get angry, instead of hitting (with proper technique), you’re loading up and telegraphing. So, you want to be as calm as possible. I think that equally skilled fighter, the guy with the more control is always going to win.”
Rutten Compared Gaethje to Chandler & Wanderlei Silva
When asked about the athletes who may perform better when angry, Rutten highlighted the fighting style of Wanderlei Silva.
“Yeah, Wanderlei Silva made a whole f**king career out of it. What a machine but perfectly technically sound? Not so much. You want to clinch with him? Do not clinch with the guy, he’s going to knock you out.
“He might not be super technical but he can aim, dude. Everything lands on the button. He’s super aggressive; just comes one speed, full speed that’s it. You put him against Michael Chandler both of these guys are the same.
“Now, it’s literally whoever gets the hit first is going to win. Justin Gaethje had the same thing.”