“I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Recently Bas Rutten, a household name in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) world, revealed to Sam Guzman at Catholic Gentleman the pride he has in his Catholic faith and how he devoutly prays the rosary in Latin, regularly attends Mass and often quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas. He told Guzman, “I got pulled back into the Faith about 3.5 years ago…[and] It changed my life in everything I do, all for the better.”
Rutten explained to Guzman how his renewed Catholic faith has helped him form a very deep prayer life.
“The first thing I do when I wake up is make coffee, bring the coffee back into bed and read the ‘daily readings.’ Then I read the ‘reflections’ of those readings to make sure I understand it, all while drinking my coffee and waking up. Then I get up, pick a quiet spot, most of the time in the backyard, and do the rosary. If I have to work right away, but I can make it to daily Mass at noon, I do it after Mass. Otherwise, I pick a time somewhere during the day or even before I go to sleep. The rosary is a great way to relax and go to sleep.”
What is probably most surprising to some is that while he has grown into his Catholic faith after his retirement from fighting, Rutten continues to be active in the MMA world and has been a commentator and trainer, helping others perfect their fighting skills. For many Christians, MMA can seem “barbaric” and too violent, but Rutten does not think so.
“Big John McCarthy, the most famous referee, said it really smart: ‘You have the mixture of 4 Olympic sports, Tae Kwon Do (kicks), boxing (punches), wrestling (wrestling) and Judo (submissions).’ All these sports are OK for people to watch, but you can’t mix them up?”
Versions of MMA have been around for thousands of years and even featured in the early Olympic games under the name of Pankration. It was a no-rules type of fighting that included boxing, wrestling, kicking and holds — basically, do whatever you had to do to defeat the opponent (with the exception of biting and gouging out the opponent’s eyes). Some scholars even believe that Saint Paul was trained in the sport or at the very least knew it quite well, based on references in his letters.
MMA, while it can appear violent and opposed to Christianity, has been embraced by many Christians. In fact, according to The Conversation, “over 700 evangelical US churches now integrate MMA (also known as cage-fighting) into their ministry programs” as an effort to reach out to men. A recent documentary, “Fight Church,” explores this new phenomenon to see how MMA is bringing men to Christ.
In the end, the sport taught Rutten discipline, and hard work and is something he carries on in his practice of the Catholic faith. He told Guzman, “you wanna get better at fighting? You train. You want to become better in life? You learn about the Faith.”
Rutten firmly believes the Catholic faith is for everyone and advises non-believers, “Get off your phones and computers, forget about YOURSELF one time and about your ‘likes’ and other social media crap, and actually spend some time reading/learning about faith and the ultimate questions and purpose of life.”