Country star Darius Rucker may not train MMA, but he absolutely loves the fight business. Rucker caught every glimpse of the UFC he could during its dark ages in the mid-1990s, but he became truly addicted when The Ultimate Fighter premiered on SpikeTV in 2005. The new reality show led to his discovery of his all-time favorite combatants—Randy Couture, Rampage Jackson, Georges St-Pierre, and Anderson Silva. TUF enabled Rucker—and the rest of America—to get a peak into the personal lives of the fighters, and it made the watching experience much more enjoyable. For Rucker, the competition is great, but he loves the added entertainment value.
“I love the physical aspect of fighting, but it also has that flare,” says Rucker. “When you see the interviews before fights, these guys don’t hold back. They say what they feel, and I love that. I go on YouTube and watch pre-fight interviews where these guy sit down and tell the truth, like, ‘I’m gonna kick the shit outta this guy. When you hear that, it makes you want to watch the fight even more. For me, it’s all about being entertained, and it entertains me.”
Although Rucker is constantly on the road and opening for platinum-selling country music heavyweights Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and the Zac Brown Band, he and his crew always make time to watch the fights.
“I’ve got six televisions in my tour bus, so we’ll just order the fights and record them,” he says. “After our performance, we can all go back and watch the fights together. A couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through the channels and caught the big women’s bout [Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche]. I enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed the men. If there are two women who want to get in the Octagon and go like that, why shouldn’t they be able to? Women can do whatever men can do.”
Currently touring, Rucker is a country music sensation who was recently inducted into Nashville’s prestigious Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame in October. However, many fans know him better from his fame as pop-rock rhythm guitarist and lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish. In 1994, Hootie & The Blowfish dropped their legendary debut album Cracked Rear View. The full-length collection topped the Billboard 200 and moved more than 16 million units in the United States alone—a feat that is rarely achieved—thanks to mega hits “Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be With You,” and Grammy winning “Let Her Cry.” Their next best-selling album, 1996’s Fairweather Johnson, was a certified triple-platinum in the U.S.
Hootie & The Blowfish released three more studio efforts before taking a break in 2008. While the band hasn’t recorded an LP since 2005’s Looking For Lucky, they still perform one-off shows and get together to fundraise for the Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation, which benefits South Carolinian kids through education and school music programs.
Since the hiatus, Rucker has been concentrating on his solo career in country music—something that has been a lifelong passion and something he promised himself two decades ago that he’d pursue.
“I’ve been saying for 20 years that I was going to make a country record,” he says. Well, instead of making just one country record, he’s made three. His latest album is entitled True Believers and is due for release May 21. True Believers is a 12-track collection that displays Rucker’s growth in musicianship and his complete comfort in being a country music songwriter, and yet the crossover artist pushes the genre’s limits on the title track, an inspirational and country rock-powered composition about a persevering marriage.
While some artists tend to play it safe, Rucker fearlessly incorporates some of country music’s broadest elements and takes pride in highlighting those dynamics. “I wanted to sound a little different, and I feel like it’s a progression,” Rucker says. “We made a great record, and the most important thing for the record is telling a song.”
Rucker may be fearless in the music industry, but the 46-year-old has no intentions of stepping into the cage. Instead, he dreams of strutting toward the Octagon, proudly raising the UFC Heavyweight Title above his head.
“I’d love to walk with Cain Velasquez to the cage,” says Rucker. “He’d make me look really small, but I’d be the guy holding the belt over my head as we walk to the Octagon. That’ll be me.”
The fourth album from Darius Rucker, True Believers, is his third in the country music genre. Featuring the #1 hit “Wagon Wheel,” it will be available May 21 in stores and on iTunes.