Ion Pascu faces an uphill climb at Bellator 196 on Friday in Budapest, Hungary, where he will meet the unbeaten Ed Ruth, a three-time NCAA wrestling champion who has made a smooth transition to mixed martial arts: four wins, all by knockout or technical knockout inside two rounds.
Pascu accepted the fight on short notice after Laszlo Furko withdrew with an injury. While the SBG Ireland representative eyes his Bellator MMA debut under less-than-ideal circumstances, the Romanian remains confident he can derail the Ruth hype train.
“I’ve been living and training in Dublin for a year and a half,” Pascu told Sherdog.com. “I’ve been training every day with top fighters like Conor McGregor, Gunnar Nelson, Artem Lobov, Makwan Amirkhani, Dillon Danis and many others. My head coach is of course John Kavanagh, and he’ll be in my corner. I fear no one.”
Ruth last competed at Bellator 186 in November, when put Chris Dempsey on his highlight reel with a second-round knockout. Pascu, however, has a number of spectacular finishes to his credit, including a one-punch KO against Henry Fadipe under the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts banner in July. Given the last-minute switch, Pascu and Ruth will do battle at a 175-pound catchweight.
“I accepted the match on short notice,” Pascu said. “I watched the fights of my opponent, and I came up with a good strategy with my coaches. I understand he’s a good fighter and that he has won all of his fights inside two rounds, but I know my striking and jiu-jitsu are better than his. I have more experience in MMA fights. He has to understand that this will be the toughest fight of his career.”
Pascu will become the third Romanian fighter to compete in Bellator, following in the footsteps of Marius Enache and George Pacurariu. The 35-year-old owns a 17-7 record and has been finished only once -- by Gregor Herb in October 2011 -- in his 24-fight career.
“My debut in Bellator is a great goal for me, but it doesn’t feel any different,” Pascu said. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, but I’m going to Budapest to win and to show I belong with the best fighters in the world. I want to keep on winning all my fights. I want to thank my fans for their support and tell them one thing: Trust me.”