While some developing fighters might view more rounds as valuable cage experience, Ed Ruth would prefer to clock out as quickly as possible.
Thus far, the three-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Penn State University has accomplished that goal, finishing both of his first two Bellator MMA opponents inside of a round. The way Ruth sees it, the longer each individual fight lasts, the shorter his career will be.
“The biggest takeaway [from my career thus far] is I want to go in there and finish these fights as quickly as possible. A lot of people want to be in there for a while, but if you’ve got a chance to wrap the match up real quick you might as well wrap it up,” Ruth told Sherdog.com. “When you’re getting hit with four-ounce gloves and the intention of the guy is to knock you out, you don’t want to be in those prolonged battles. It just takes away from you in the future.”
Ruth will make his third appearance with the California-based promotion on Friday at Bellator 178, when he faces David Mundell in a preliminary middleweight bout. Mundell enters the matchup with a 6-2 career mark that most notably includes a second-round knockout loss to current UFC talent Mike Perry. The Bellator 178 prelims stream on Bellator.com beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The main card, headlined by a featherweight championship tilt between Daniel Straus and Patricio Freire, air on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
Bellator has taken its time building Ruth, who had no MMA experience prior to his November 2016 debut. It’s an approach that he can understand and appreciate. However, he also feels the time is fast approaching when he will be ready to take on some of Bellator’s more established names.
“I kind of want to take them on as soon as possible. But you never want to be too quick to rush it in this sport, especially for how unforgiving it can be,” Ruth said. “I don’t mind having a little bit of patience, but I do want to see myself stepping it up closer toward the end of this year.”
Ruth will continue his progression at the Dethrone Base Camp, in Fresno, Calif., the gym that notably includes former UFC title challenger and current Bellator talent Josh Koscheck. Ruth chose the gym after a nationwide tour that included stops at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., and Serra-Longo Fight Team in New York.
“It helps a lot to have him [Koscheck] the gym. Just going from a wrestler’s point of view, seeing how wrestlers go through this sport and how they develop — just seeing where their strengths lie, and seeing where some of my strengths are gonna lie since we both have the same base,” said Ruth, who also occasionally stops by American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., to train because of its proximity. “It just helps a lot. If you walk into a kickboxing academy and all they’re teaching is kickboxing and they don’t know how to tie your wrestling into that, you’re kind of missing big gaps in your game. I feel like they fill in those gaps really nicely.”
Koscheck has struggled lately, losing his last six fights in a row. That slump included a surprising defeat in his Bellator debut, when he was stopped by journeyman Mauricio Alonso on Feb. 18. Still, “Kos” was a cast member on the groundbreaking “Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 and worked his way up to challenging Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight belt at UFC 124. To follow up a decorated wrestling career at Edinboro University with such MMA success makes him a worthy role model for someone like Ruth, who has a similar background.
“Koscheck had a long road. He’s been doing MMA for a really long time. These last couple of fights haven’t gone in his favor, but you can still see some of that old Koscheck in there, the guy that was throwing bombs and taking people down,” Ruth said. “Every time I go with him in the practice room, he’s always felt sharp. He’s always kind of been the guy that I look up to his style. Being a wrestler and seeing how he takes guys down and grinds them out, and then he goes to jiu-jitsu. He does it seamlessly.”
As he continues to learn and develop in the sport, Ruth is pleased with the way his jiu-jitsu has complemented his wrestling — he’s even competed in a couple grappling tournaments — but admits that his standup has plenty of room for improvement.
“When you first step into the ring, you realize that guy is a lot further and a lot more elusive than you thought,” he said. “You’re like, ‘Wow there’s a lot more that goes into punching someone in the face than just punching them in the face.’ There’s setups, there’s slips, there’s ways you can bait someone into throwing a punch so you can counter them. I always feel like I can work on striking forever. For me it’s been fun just kind of figuring those things out and learning where my athleticism plays a part.”
Still, given his skill set and the lack of depth in Bellator’s middleweight division, Ruth could make an impact on the title scene relatively quickly. Ruth agrees that the weight class is there for the taking, but that will not affect his approach.
“It does look that way, but I never take anything for granted,” Ruth said. “The better I get, it’s just that much easier those fights will be for me.”