This weekend, Bellator MMA brings top-tier mixed martial arts action to Hawaii for the first time since Elite XC ventured to the Aloha State in 2008. Friday (Bellator 212) and Saturday (Bellator 213) feature back-to-back nights filled to the brim with talent.
One bout which shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle is the second quarterfinal clash of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix tournament between rising stars Ed Ruth (6-0) and Neiman Gracie (8-0).
A three-time National Champion wrestler at Penn State, Ruth made his MMA debut in early 2016. The NCAA standout was brought in as part of Bellator MMA’s unofficial “blue-chip prospect” initiative.
Less than two years since stepping into the cage for the first time, Ruth is still undefeated, with five knockouts in six victories.
In his last outing, Ruth knocked out 16-2 fighter Andy Murad in Round 2—cementing his place in Bellator’s tournament.
“I could have done better,” Ruth told FloCombat. “I could have moved my feet better and my technique could have been better. I’ve always been the biggest critic of my own style.”
Following his victory at Bellator 201, Ruth expressed interest in the tournament. To the surprise of some, Bellator obliged without hesitation—throwing one of their top prospects into a pool of absolute proven savages.
“It’s an honor they would consider me for it,” Ruth said. “The fact that I’m in it and get the chance to fight for the belt my second round in if I get past this guy, it’s awesome.
“I’m always a guy who likes to shake sh*t up. It’s awesome to be right there competing with the guys who are already doing it. I never want to just come in and be there when everything is getting built. I’d like to learn from the OG’s. I’m always that type of guy.”
His opponent, the 30-year-old Brazilian Gracie, is similar to Ruth in that regard. Pegged as a future star, the submission wizard has beaten savvy veterans in Bellator. None, however, has been to the level of his fellow tournament participants.
“[Gracie] is a perfect guy to fight first,” Ruth said. “I feel like our styles match up well.
“Being that I’m a wrestler and lean on my striking, I feel like I have the advantages in [those areas]. People don’t see me kick too often, but I do like to kick. If he wants it to be his fight, he has to take me down, the way I see it. Right away he’s already coming into my area.”