Losing made previously unbeaten Ed Ruth 'feel more like a fighter'

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – For a three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion and previously undefeated MMA prospect Ed Ruth, defeats in big-time matchups were few and far between. But the 28-year-old Bellator welterweight says he’s embracing the feeling and using it as fuel to get better.

Speaking to MMA Junkie ahead of his return to action Friday at Bellator 224, Ruth (6-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) reflected on his submission loss to Neiman Gracie last time out in the semifinals of the Bellator welterweight grand prix. It was his first loss as an MMA pro and one that he quickly came to terms with.

“It sucked. It definitely sucked,” Ruth said. “But at the same time, it was like, ‘It’s normal.’ It’s normal in any other sport. If you’re a competitor you’ve got to take the weight of the loss and the weight of the win. It’s just easier to win. Losing, if anything, just made me feel more like a fighter.”

No longer burdened with the additional weight of an undefeated tag, Ruth continues his career under the bright lights of the Bellator cage this weekend against Japanese veteran Kiichi Kunimoto (20-7 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). And the American star says he hasn’t overreacted to his loss or changed his preparation. Instead, he’s sticking with what got him to the dance in the first place.

“I didn’t change anything at all,” Ruth admitted. “If anything, I just wanted to focus more on me as a fighter. A lot of things in that last fight were things I couldn’t have gotten around. It was a five-rounder. It was something I’d never been in before. I felt like the other guy had a little bit more experience, he’s been doing it for five years, and he just showed up that day.

“When I went back to my camp, it sucked to lose, but it was just like whatever. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m just going to keep getting better. Because if I focus on that fight, it’s not gonna help me get better. It’ just gonna make me more paranoid.”

Ruth is also taking a philosophical approach to the prospect of facing Gracie again. While some fighters will battle tooth and nail to get a rematch and avenge their losses, Ruth says he won’t waste his energy chasing a rematch. But if they ever do meet again, he’ll be keen, and he’ll be ready.

“If he’s going to be around for a long time, and he’s somebody who’s going to keep proving himself, yeah, I wanna fight him,” Ruth said. “But this is one of those early losses. I’m not gonna dog on him just because I lost to him earlier in my career. If I see him again, I see him again.”

With that first loss out of the way, Ruth now turns his attention to Kunimoto who, at the age of 38, is 10 years Ruth’s senior.

“I feel like he’s a very solid fighter, and I feel he’s a good guy for me to fight to finally test myself against. This is definitely another step up for me.” Ruth said. But after watching the tape on the Japanese veteran, he knows what he’s facing and believes he has the answers to the questions he’s likely to face on fight night.

“I checked out some of (his fights) in Japan – they seemed to go to the ground a lot. In the UFC, when he fought Neil Magny, he was on his feet a good deal. I just saw the same thing all around,” Ruth said.

“He’s kinda slow on the feet, but he has some pretty decent shots that I still have to watch out for. He has some pretty good jiu-jitsu. But overall I think I’m going to be too much for him to handle. I’m gonna throw a lot of things at him wrestling-wise, boxing-wise, striking-wise, and I want to show people that I’m getting better. I’m still improving.”

And despite his decorated collegiate background, Ruth says he won’t overly lean on his elite-level wrestling skills against a man whose ground game he respects.

“If it’s going good on the feet, why even take it to the ground?” Ruth said. “Because if you take it to the ground, you’re just expending a lot of energy, and I don’t want to give him a chance.

“Down there his chances are obviously down on the mat – he has 20 submissions. So you don’t go in the ring with somebody with 20 submissions and take them to the mat. You want to keep it in the arena where it’s still in your favor.”

For more on Bellator 224, check out the MMA schedule.

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