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MMA Crossfire – Bas Rutten, BJ Penn to be inducted into UFC hall of fame

Add BJ Penn and Bas Rutten to the UFC’s list of 2015 pioneer class inductees.

The two legends will join recent additions Jeff Blatnick and the Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg II rematch July 11th at the UFC Fan Expo.

Welcome back to The Crossfire.

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The UFC seems to be responding to the steady diet of criticism to the attention previously devoted to its Hall-of-Fame, which compared to World Wrestling Entertainment’s can still use considerable improvement.

Nicknamed “The Prodigy,” Penn became revered by fans as a fiery competitor who rarely backed down from a challenge. He made his UFC debut at UFC 31 in 2001 and was regarded as a the best lightweight in the world until the evolution of Frankie Edgar.

As lightweight champ, he challenged then welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre in a title-for-title superfight at UFC 94 in 2009.

He also defeated fellow legend Matt Hughes for the welterweight belt, becoming only the second fighter to win belts in different weight classes.

BJ Penn
Matt Hughes and BJ Penn pose for photos at the UFC 123 pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Detroit, Michigan on November 17, 2010 (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

But it wasn’t all apple pie and blue skies for Penn. He frequently clashed with UFC management behind the scenes, leaving the company after winning the belt over a contract dispute in 2004.

“It is our honor to induct BJ Penn into the UFC Hall of Fame,” UFC president Dana White said. “He was one of those stars who helped build the UFC. When we bought this company, we were told no-one cared about lightweights.

BJ Penn
BJ Penn celebrates in a file photo. Courtesy UFC/Zuffa LLC.

“BJ Penn not only made people care, he was one of the biggest draws in UFC history. And what he accomplished inside the Octagon speaks for itself – he is one of only two people to win two UFC titles in two different divisions and he beat a who’s who of his era. He is a legend and a no-brainer for the UFC Hall of Fame.”

Today, Penn manages his MMA journalism website.

Rutten (28-4-1), who hails from The Netherlands, fought mostly in the pre-unified rules of mixed martial arts.

He was regarded as the King of Pancrease in Japan, but signed with the UFC in 1999. He became the fourth man to hold the UFC heavyweight crown by defeating Kevin Randleman in only his second UFC fight.

Injuries however curtailed his UFC career. The Randleman fight was his last fight in the organization.

“I never expected to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame,” Rutten said. “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.”

Bas Rutten
Bas Rutten.

“My pro debut against Ryushi Yanagisawa, he outweighed me by 45lbs, but I knocked him out. Then the two wins over Frank Shamrock, winning the Pancrase title from Minoru Suzuki, my two wins in the UFC, of course, meant a lot to me and beating Masakatsu Funaki in the rematch. He was the first person to beat me, he talked a lot of crap, and in the rematch for the title, I slaughtered him.”

Some interesting Rutten statistics: according to Fightmetric:

4:27:08 – Fight time spent as a professional fighter

13 – 0 – Knockdowns Rutten scored in his career vs knockdowns experienced

70.6% – Career striking accuracy percentage, the highest Fightmetric ever recorded

53 – Attempted submissions

46 – Swept opponents

0 – Attempted takedowns


Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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