Ed Ruth is a three-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Penn State University, an Olympic hopeful with dreams of medaling in Rio de Janeiro next year.
He is talented enough that Jon Jones invited Ruth to train with him in Albuquerque, N.M., ahead of the then-UFC light heavyweight champion’s highly-anticipated bout with Daniel Cormier at UFC 182. Shortly thereafter, Ruth received an invitation to make Jackson-Wink MMA his permanent training home.
In short, Ruth is a man with options. When it came to choosing a spot to begin his mixed martial arts journey begins in earnest sometime in the second half of 2016, Bellator MMA trumped its chief rival -- Ultimate Fighting Championship -- in one key area: sponsorship earnings potential.
While Ruth isn’t familiar with all the specifics of the UFC’s six-year contract with Reebok, he knows enough to be underwhelmed by the recently revealed payment tiers for the deal.
“I didn’t really pay too much attention to the tiers, but from what I understand it was $2,500 for the first fight to five fights and then they go up from there,” Ruth told Sherdog.com. “Being a wrestler, the numbers we see, they kind of don’t go up that quick. But still, somebody with my background and my credentials, everybody’s just looking to make as much as they possibly can. That was one of the big things for me. I was like, ‘Man, I can do a lot better than that.’”
Bellator announced on Monday that it signed Ruth an exclusive, multi-fight contract. His MMA career will not begin until after the 2016 Summer Olympics, when he is expected to compete in the middleweight division. Unlike the UFC, Bellator does not have an outfitting policy looming.
The former Nittany Lion said that he already has a few sponsors, including athletic equipment company Asics and wrestling-themed apparel company Cradle Gear. As his profile grows, both during the Olympics and as he begins to make a name for himself in MMA, his potential to secure more sponsors only figures to increase. That, Ruth says, played a major role in his decision to sign with Bellator.
“It was a big reason just because whoever I want to have on me or just be represented on my shorts or whatever, I will be wearing in the cage. That was huge,” he said. “[If] I want to put time and effort into getting sponsorships, branching out and developing relationships with other companies, I can do that.”