Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Here’s another very funny gym story, and one I won't ever forget, involving former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten. At the time this story took place, Bas was arguably considered the baddest man on the planet. He was a UFC Champion and a 3-time King of Pancrase. At this time, Bas would frequent PowerHouse on Main Street; he liked to work out in the middle of the day. This was normally a slow time in the gym and our staffing was limited. Personal Trainers, for example, used the middle of the day to take their breaks. A PT's life is scheduled around normal business hours. The early mornings and evenings for them are prime time. As a manager, I dealt with sales, but also manned the front desk, worked as a fitness counselor, and handled various managerial responsibilities. At midday, Powerhouse had a skeleton crew of about 4 total. We wore many hats and had plenty to do on a daily basis.
All the guys who worked that shift became pretty close to Bas as we would see him daily, and let me tell you - to this day I've never seen a man train cardio as hard as he did. He would get on a treadmill and run at full speed, at the highest incline, the highest speed setting, wearing a weighted, and he would sprint for an hour. The man was a beast, but he was also the nicest guy you’ve ever met.
The comment that changed everything
One day, normal as any, Bas was leaving the gym, and one of our new personal trainers, Sean K, approached the front desk, pointed at Bas, and said “who does that guy think he is?” Another staff member was was working behind the front desk with me. We both looked at each other, surprised the PT didn’t know who Bas is, and we were not going to tell him. We wanted to hear what he was going to say, hoping he was going to "talk shit.” Sure enough, Sean did not disappoint.
“You mean the guy who just left, the real sweaty guy, shaved head?” I replied.
“Yeah, wtf man, some attitude this guy has, who is he?” Sean responded.
“He is a guy who comes and trains during the day, possibly into martial arts or something,” I told Sean, totally downplaying that Bas is an absolute assassin and UFC world champion. Sean was a very confident, speak his mind kind of guy, with a short fuse, and super opiniated. He’s a great guy, we all liked him, but he just was one of those strong minded, proud-to-a-fault kind of guys. I had lead the horse to water, and now it was time for him to drink. What came out of his mouth next was exactly what I was hoping for.
"He doesn't look that special, I'm not afraid of him.”
Now that is what you call an incredible statement from our friend Sean. We knew Bas well enough to know he’s a smart, funny guy, who happens to be unstoppable in combat sports. What we didn't know was how he’d feel about being involved in a hilarious prank on Sean.
The next day, as usual, Bas comes in around midday to do his workout. He usually stops by the front desk to chat we used the opportunity to ask him about our prank. I prefaced my question by telling him it was all for fun and by no means did we want anyone to get hurt. I explained what Sean had said and told him about about our plan, and Bas said he was in. He thought it was hilarious. The plan was to have Bas aggressively confront Sean about what he said about him to see what Sean would do. We would all be there to just make sure nothing happened. The key for this to work was for Bas to keep a straight face and act like he's very upset.
With the plan in place, we just need Sean and Bas to be at the gym at the same time, which happened a couple of days later. It was business as usual, a nice summer day, and Sean came into the gym and stopped by the front desk to say hi. We casually brought up that Bas was at the gym, and added that we found out that he was Bas Rutten, a very dangerous MMA fighter and UFC world champion.
“Jesus, man,” were the words that came out of Sean’s mouth at hearing that.
I could see the wheels in his head were spinning.
“I might have really made a mistake with my statement a couple days ago,” he added.
We could tell Sean was concerned, and maybe hoping no one had heard or remembered what he had said about Bas. Little did he know, not only was it heard, but it was passed on to Bas.
Operation Pee Pants:
The gym's design was such that one entire side had floor to ceiling windows. While Sean was finishing up with a client, I went up to Bas and pointed out who Sean was so that when he finished and was walking out, he could have his little talk with Sean. After Sean’s session with his client ended, he returned to the front desk for some small talk, and that was the cue for Bas to leave his treadmill and follow Sean. Sean had no clue, strolling casually through the gym with Bas creeping up behind him, still dripping with sweat, veins popping out and heart rate pumping. Sean had just made his way through the front door when he heard Bas’ voice.
"Hey, excuse me. I need to talk to you,” Bas said, with the same look on his face that he has in the ring right before a fight. Sean swiveled around and looked like he’d seen a ghost.
“Hey man, I was only joking,” Sean stammered, with his hands in the air. "I'm a fan… you're a great fighter!”
Bas kept the pressure on, continuing to stare down Sean aggressively, while we all watched from inside through the windows, cracking up.
We could tell Sean didn't know what to do. If he ran, Bas would catch him. If he threw a punch, Bas would destroy him. It might have been the longest 30 seconds of his life, before Sean saw us all laughing realized it was all a prank.
We could see the relief in Sean’s face. Bas laughed and they hugged it out. Bas was such a good sport. He and Sean became friends after, and Sean will have that memory for the rest of his life. Sean came back into the gym and wanted to kill us, but eventually he was able to laugh it off. That prank has held up as one of the best through the years - something we will never forget.