Rick Bassman Q&A: A Life Spent in Combat Sports

Rick Bassman Q&A: A Life Spent in Combat Sports

Richard David Bassman is an entrepreneur, producer, talent agent, and author. He is a former Disney executive was Division Head of the “Larger Than Life” Division of industry-leader CESD Talent Agency, representing Lou Ferrigno, Tito Ortiz, and Roddy Piper, among many others. He is probably best known for his work in mixed martial arts in which he owned and operated Valor Fighting, and managed many of the world’s top heavyweights, including Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, Oleg Taktarov, Butterbean and Tank Abbott.  He also consulted for K-1, and in Professional Wrestling, where he founded, owned and operated Ultimate Pro Wrestling, consulted for industry leader World Wrestling Entertainment, and discovered, trained and managed many top stars, such as Sting, The Ultimate Warrior, and John Cena.

Rick Bassman and Roddy Piper
Rick Bassman and Roddy Piper

Tony Reid – Author, Fighter, Loser, Addict, Adventurer, Producer, Winner…Who is Rick Bassman today?

Rick Bassman – “I should look at the tagline in front of me and check off the ones that apply. Pretty darn near all of them. Everybody writes memoirs from Keith Richards to Motley Crue and they all talk about how they used to be and about their bad behavior from past years. They all seem to write about it when they are reborn and on a straight and narrow path. I might be that odd guy or rare guy that admits to still battling those demons on a daily basis. I would have to look at the list but I would say maybe all of the above.”

Tony Reid – Going through hell and coming out on the other side electrified. Talk about that statement a bit.

Rick Bassman – “It’s a sequence of events that started back when I was 13. All of us face challenges in our lives. It doesn’t matter whose are greater it depends on how we deal with it and how resilient we are. People say I have had about ten times the amount of catastrophic occurrences than most people have. For whatever reason, if I’m paying for karma from a bad life time or if I just don’t have good luck, it seems that they hit me one after another. Everything from terminal cancer to family members dropping dead or dying slowly, to losing my family to losing my businesses to being shot, being homeless, it’s been one thing after another. The reference to coming out electrified on the other side is the fact that I’m 51 now, to a lot of people that’s considered old but physically I’m in the best shape of my life despite the scars accumulated over a lifetime of injuries, illness and drugs. If I get knocked on my ass I don’t stay there long, if at all. There is something in me that enables me to get back up and take another hard run at it.”

Tony Reid – You spent time as a trainer of several well known wrestlers including John Cena, Sting and the Ultimate Warrior to name a few. Can you share an interesting story form your days in pro wrestling?

Rick Bassman – “Oh gosh…there are hundreds of them. I grew up as a wrestling fan, as a kid I remembered hearing about these crazy Brazilian brothers living in a dojo that could choke out any human being alive. It sounded like myth of course. When you grow up liking pro wrestling and comic books you always wonder who is the toughest guy in the world is and stuff like that. I was in Denver from 1984 to 1989 and very involved in the football and basketball business there. In 1993 I saw these ads for the Ultimate Fighting Challenge, back then they marketed it as the ultimate bloodsport. It looked fascinating, I called my friend who was the WWF promoter in the area, thinking he must be involved somehow and he was. I scored a few tickets and sat in the tenth row of a half empty building and watched Gracie and Shamrock and Gordeau do their thing. It was pretty interesting. I got hooked on it immediately. I heard about Bob Meyrowitz and Art Davie. I got connected with Art Davie out of sheer perseverance. I started pushing him on bringing in a big, giant pro wrestler into the UFC. It was a different world back then; I presented him a bunch of different options. I was talking with Tony Halme one day; he was one of my wrestling trainees. Tony or Ludvig, whatever you want to call him, he was a funny guy. Here was a guy who was 6’5” over 300 pounds, which was very big for back then. He had a great presence and look. And we were still back in the days when everybody thought that the biggest, scariest guy was the toughest guy in the world. Nobody knew any better back then. Tony’s very first quote was ‘Oh, I will kill any one of those guys in the UFC.’ So I kept petitioning Art to let Tony in the event. I knew I was either going to look like a genius or a fucking idiot but lets give it a shot. We got Tony booked three months in advance. Well in advance his first round opponent got injured and had to pull out of the fight. Well, this was just as the internet was picking up steam and it was written in a chat room that Tony’s opponent pulled out after hearing about Tony’s reputation for killing people barehanded in prison. It was a whole different world back then. That was the order of the day. So then they book Jason Fairn. Well, he reads the reports and he drops out. He legitimately got scared and dropped out. Now the internet is really going nuts. We were just going crazy at that point. Art said he would continue to try to get an opponent for Tony. Back then I was working with the McCully brothers and I was the owner of Extreme University, which was probably the first MMA gym in California. Shawn was my partner and Justin went on to fight in the UFC. We set up this great training regimen for Tony three months in advance. Well, this guy never showed up once! It was always one thing after another. He was doing his secret training in the dungeon, he was telling us how dangerous he was and it was just wacky. We finally dragged his big ass to the gym and he saw people doing armbars and submissions and he told us that nobody could do that to him; he would drop them on their head and break their neck. So we had a guy come over and hit him with a flying armbar. Well, Tony muscles up and picks the guy up, his arm pops and he drops the guy to the floor. To his credit he said ‘Oh, that is just a busted elbow, I’ll still kill everybody.’ So I thought that was it for sure. Well, that was Tony’s training for his UFC appearance; it lasted all of thirty seconds.

“We get to town for the event and we want to get him in the gym. He wants to do squats and deadlifts and we are doing everything we can to get him on the mat. The guy is doing nothing. So the day of the fight we go to lunch at Applebee’s and he eats a double hot fudge sundae. So we are all wondering what the fuck was going on with him. So the night of the fight Tony forgot his mouthpiece so I had to go borrow one from Rico Chiapparelli of all people, his opponent’s manager. So I’m watching the other guys warm up (Randy Couture) and I tell Tony that he looks pretty good, that the guy is a wrestler so don’t just run straight at him and get hit with a double leg. Tony says “He is a little Smurf; I will run right over him.” So the fight starts and Tony doesn’t run at Couture he practically lumbers in his direction in slow motion. Sure enough, double leg, one shot, flips over on his belly and Tony taps in like half a second. It just goes to show how much the game has evolved since then. Ultimately I ended up being the guy that brought most of the guys from pro wrestling into mixed martial arts. That was a fun part of the MMA time for me. And conversely, I brought a number of MMA fighters into pro wrestling namely Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr, two of my first clients.”

Tony Reid – Another well known MMA fighter you represented was none other than Tank Abbott. Can you share a Tank story with us?

Rick Bassman – “I booked 5 or 6 fights in a row for Tank. He was one of the most straight up guys I have ever met, no bullshit. I liked him right from the get go. The only fight I missed was the one when he fought Yoshida in PRIDE. He got $110,000 for that fight, so that was great money at the time. Tank was the only guy I ever worked with where he would not let the money go to my account first. He said the money goes to his account and then he would pay me. Normally I wouldn’t do that but this was Tank! I don’t get intimidated in this business, you can’t, but it was a different story with Tank. So he goes over fights and loses quickly. He calls me when he gets back to that States and said that he had my $11,000. Well $11,000 is $11,000. He was on his way to Wild Kingdom Animal Park and said he would drop the money off on his way by. I thought that was really cool. He said he would be there in an hour. Three hours go by and no Tank. I call and he answers and he’s completely trashed. He is already at the park and wants me to go meet him to get the money. He said he had the cash on him. I’m thinking man, I am going to have to run around the park and get this money. I get in the car and drive all the way out there. I get to the front gate, his buddy is there and he hands me a ticket to go inside. We get to the pavilion, if you remember the UFC days; his buddies are these huge biker guys. They are all drinking alcohol out of these giant, giant, plastic cups with animal heads on them. He asked if I wanted my money. I said ‘Uh, sure.’ Well he wanted me to drink this big gulp sized cup of booze, of course with the rubber animal head on it. I think it was a vodka and cranberry. I drank it. He inspects the cup, sees that I drank it all and reaches into his pocket and hands me $11,000 cash. I said ‘Great, how am I supposed to drive home now?’ He said ‘Well, that’s why I bought you a ticket.’ There’s a Tank story for you.”