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Obstacles come in many shapes and sizes. The obstacles of asthma and eczema can be isolating and lonely obstacles to overcome, especially for a child. Imagine being a child with asthma so severe that physical activity is limited and attacks leave you in bed for days, unable to walk or even eat or drink at times. Imagine being that same child and having eczema so severe that you need to wear gloves.

Whatever comes to mind when you picture severe asthma and eczema, I bet you don’t think of Bas Rutten.

Bas (Sebastiaan) Rutten lives in California with his wife and two children. He is a retired MMA fighter, three-time King of Pancrase Openweight Champion and UFC Heavyweight Champion.  

But Bas was also that young child, growing up with asthma and eczema in the Netherlands.

His journey started with isolation and physical challenges. But today he is a retired mixed martial artist (MMA), karate and tae kwon do black belt, and Muay Thai kickboxer. He has also trained fighters like Kimbo Slice.

Bas is participating in the All Stars of Giving, a contest in its fifth year created by All Sports United. They award a philanthropist-athlete as Humanitarian of the Year. Athletes like Bas will compete for votes. The winner is not only awarded the title of Humanitarian of the Year, but also receives a monetary donation for their charity of choice.

Last year’s winner, Tony Stewart, won $10,000 for the charity of his choice. See the full list of nominees here.

This year, Bas chooses all of YOU! Bas has chosen the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) as his charity of choice for the 2017 All Stars of Giving contest. You can return the favor by voting for Bas.

To help Bas (and AAFA) win:

  1. Create a free account on the All Stars of Giving site using the "Join" button at the top of the page.
  2. Once your account has been created, scroll down and click on Bas' photo. 
  3. In the window that appears, click the "JOIN TEAM RUTTEN" button. 
  4. Once you join his team, you can help Bas by clicking "Favorite" under his picture, by sharing a link on social media and by donating. All activity earns points for Bas. 
  5. Return every day to help Bas earn more points. You can favorite once each day. Donating and sharing also earn more points.

Bas took time out of his busy training and acting schedule to answer some questions for the AAFA community.

Bas took time out of his busy training and acting schedule to answer some questions for the AAFA community.


AAFA: Bas, we are so honored to be selected as your charity of choice for your participation in the 2017 All Stars of Giving campaign. Tell us why you chose AAFA.

Bas: I was very sick as a kid – had eczema on my arms, hands, neck, face and legs, as well as asthma. About once every month, a heavy asthma attack which would force me to bed for a week, not able to even eat because I couldn’t breathe. So to give back now, many years later – I love it!


AAFA: How can AAFA, our supporters and members support you in the All Stars of Giving Campaign?

Bas: Please support my charity by joining my team for free. You can then favorite, donate and share to vote for me.


AAFA: As an MMA fighter and UFC Champion, your physical conditioning must have been intense and demanding – can you share some tips for managing asthma while participating in strenuous training?

Bas: I swam every morning as a kid to keep my lungs open. That helped me.

But it’s hard because for all my fights ever, I needed to have an inhaler. When you are an asthma patient and you start warming up, many times your asthma starts acting up. They call it “exercise-induced asthma.” Any asthma patients know what I am talking about. It can even be triggered by just a sneeze. And when you don’t have your inhaler on you, that could be a problem. The good part is that once I [used my inhaler], I had no problem and could push as hard as I could.

So as a kid when I thought having asthma and eczema was a curse. It actually gave me a profession in MMA, so the curse became a blessing!


AAFA: Is there any advice you could give kids who feel isolated by their asthma or other conditions?

Bas: If you are getting bullied, use that bullying as fuel. Don’t listen to them. They have NO clue what YOU are capable of doing.

Kids, please also understand that there is sun behind the clouds! Do NOT be sad. Embrace it. Again, use it as fuel for whatever you wanna do. You can also complain all day long but that doesn’t seem to do anything for you other than make it worse, so don’t!


AAFA: What are some tips you can give for managing your asthma in your day-to-day life?

Bas: Logging everything you eat and do helps a lot. This way when you trigger your asthma, you look back what you ate the day before and also the hours before and write those things down. Then when you eat those things again and it gets triggered, you know what the problem is.

Sometimes this could take a month or two to find out, but it was SUPER important for me. When you are young, you think “two months? That’s a long time!” But trust me, it is nothing, and you will find out what triggers it.


AAFA: How does it feel to be a champion? 

Bas: It feels great. When you get bullied a lot as a kid, you almost start believing the bullies. So when you break out of that and you fulfill your dreams, that’s awesome.


AAFA: What’s your favorite thing to do for fun?

Bas: I like scuba diving, working out in the pool and riding ATVs. But I also like teaching MMA at my gym, doing TV shows (Watch me in August on the second season starts of Kevin Can Wait on CBS!), movies, commercials and commentating. I was the fitness guru for Cartoon Network, did video games, etc.

All these thing I am doing because I was sick as a kid. How cool is that? I write blogs, have a podcast. I am busy all day, but again, I love it!


AAFA: If you could do anything, what would it be? 

Bas: My biggest wish before I left 20 years ago to come to America was to be on an American sitcom. I always enjoyed comedy. In October, I did an episode for Kevin Can Wait on CBS. They loved it and I appeared three more times. I hear I’ll be back next season as well. That has always been my wish, and now it became a reality for me. In other words, I am doing exactly what I love to do!


AAFA: What’s the hardest part of being Bas? 

Bas: Saying “no” to people when they ask for help. It drives my wife nuts because I think I can say “yes” the whole time. But that brings me into trouble at times because I take too much hay on my fork. But I am managing it now.


AAFA: Is there anything else you want to share with us? 

Bas: If you have any questions, I mostly answer those on my Twitter account @BasRuttenMMA and on my Facebook account, I post blogs and more.


AAFA: Thanks again for selecting AAFA as your charity of choice. We hope to see you announced as the Humanitarian of the Year!

Bas: Thank you!

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