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After suffering his first career loss, Ed Ruth will make his return to the cage on July 12 at Bellator 224 in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Having fallen short to fellow 170-pound standout Neiman Gracie at Bellator 213, Ruth will look to get back into the win column as he takes on seasoned Ultimate Fighting Championship and Rizin FF veteran Kiichi Kunimoto, in what appears to be another cross-promotional match between Bellator and Rizin. Making his first walk to the cage in 2019, Ruth has spent little time lamenting his first career setback, opting instead to focus on improving his skills.
“Just been training, just been staying focused, just trying to better.” Ruth told Sherdog.com. “There was that initial shock, that when you first have an undefeated record and at some point, you believe that you can’t lose, and when you do lose you’re like 'oh man,' you know? It sucks, it puts you down in the dumps a little bit but that was only for like a day. Then I was right back to training. At the same time, I got more time to reflect and think and improve.”
Ruth was able to last until the fourth round of his fight against Gracie before succumbing to a rear-naked choke by the jiu-jitsu specialist. Only three years into his MMA career, a loss to a Gracie by submission is nothing to be ashamed of, and Ruth believes it will only help him down the line. With Kunimoto having a similar skillet, the 28-year-old prospect has started to devote a fair amount of his training time to the Brazilian martial art.
“Just been kinda going to jiu-jitsu, kinda just getting in the gi, rolling around, cause I heard he’s a big submission guy, so I’ve been trying to make sure I’ve been doing a lot of jiu-jitsu this time…Focusing more on how I can relax more on my feet so I don’t get tired.” Ruth said.
Kunimoto’s skillset isn’t the only thing that has the Pennsylvania native intrigued by the matchup. Ruth’s opponent most recently fought in the Japanese promotion Rizin, an organization that Bellator has partnered with as recently as Bellator 222 to host cross-promotional fights. Ruth likes the idea of taking on fighters from other promotions and could certainly see himself competing in Japan one day.
“I do like that. It gives everybody a chance to kind of like, you know, find different fan bases. It’s a great thing that [Bellator] is teaming up with Rizin because people over in Japan won’t watch Bellator unless they have somebody to watch for, so I feel like that was smart…I think [Japan] is awesome, I’m a big fan of anime too so I’d love to go to Japan.”
After fighting three times last year, Ruth has been on the longest layoff of his career with nearly seven months having passed since his last bout. While the welterweight prospect thought so much time away from the cage would make him restless, he admits it wasn’t as bad as he thought it might be. That being said, he wants to fight at least one more time before 2020.
“I definitely want to fight again this year, before the year’s out.” Ruth said, “I like fighting. I keep telling them “Hey, I’m always ready, I’m not getting any younger, throw me in there” but you know it just so happens that I had this six months to be on ice, and it wasn’t so bad. It was just six more months of me training.”
Ruth prefers to train year-round instead of having specific fight camps, something he’s carried over from his days as a wrestler.
“Usually when you’re in camp or something like that you gotta spend a lot of time worrying about your weight,” Ruth said “I feel like there’s always a lot of planning when its time for a camp. I just like to train year-round, so I just do that. I’ve been doing this for so long. Even with wrestling, Wrestling in itself was a year-round sport…I’ve just been wrestling, wrestling, and wrestling then went right into MMA then it's just been training, training, training for MMA so its been kind of the same thing.”
The training regimen seems to have paid dividends for the three-time NCAA Division I champion, as five of his six wins have come by way of knockout. Come July 12, Ruth hopes to add another KO to his record against Kunimoto, though he’s out to prove he’s better than the 29-fight veteran in every way possible.
“I’m aiming for a knockout; you know a first-round knockout.” Ruth said, “Just going in there, and I just wanna show that I’m better than him in all areas. You know jiu-jitsu wise, wrestling wise, on the feet, what have you.”
And if Ruth can get past Kunimoto, he’s looking to make his climb back to the top—taking on any and all comers.
“Honestly I’m just sitting here with a big net,” Ruth said, “Just waiting for whoever they throw at me.”