Undefeated prospects Ed Ruth and Neiman Gracie meet at Bellator 213 in the opening round of the promotion’s Welterweight World Grand Prix (Photo Credit: Bellator MMA)

On Saturday Dec. 15, a pair of unbeaten prospects are set to square off in the opening round of Bellator’s Welterweight World Grand Prix. Ed Ruth (6-0) and Neiman Gracie (8-0) will look to punch their ticket to face the winner of Rory MacDonald and Jon Fitch and move one step closer to the promotion’s welterweight title.

While Ruth’s journey has included an illustrious run at Penn State becoming a 4-time Division 1 All-American and 3-time NCAA National Champion, the transition to MMA wasn’t too difficult for the collegiate wrestling star.

“It wasn’t that bad honestly,” said Ruth. “Just because of my wrestling style I was a very, I moved a lot when I was a wrestler and I took a lot of shots and took a lot of chances. And you know when I got into fighting I was like ‘wow’, I do exactly this but I do this in wrestling.”

“And even the way that I move was, you know, I like to be really light on my feet. And they were like ‘hey, you can do fighting and that’s what all of it’s about, movement’ so I was like ‘hey, this is perfect for me’.”

Ruth began his MMA career with a catchweight fight at 192 lbs, and has slowly made his way down to welterweight with his last contest being his first at 170 lbs. This isn’t a new phenomenon in the sport, much less with Bellator, as fighters the likes of Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. have also been afforded the time to progress down to a target weight. For Ruth, the plan was to eventually make middleweight and none further.

“When I actually started fighting a lot of people were looking at me and saying ‘hey, you look like a welterweight’,” said Ruth. “But you know I didn’t believe them, I actually wanted to stay at 185 but the weight just kept coming off.”

With the catchweight opportunities, Ruth was indifferent with the structured approach to moving down.

“Honestly if we just cut (to) 170 every single time, there was no catch weights, I would actually like that better just cause it would be easier just to kind of maintain the weight at just like one exact weight.”

Ed Ruth speaking on his jiu-jiitsu abilities ahead of his Welterweight World Grand Prix bout against second degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Neiman Gracie

Time in the gym at Alliance in San Diego with training partners Dominick Cruz, Darrion Caldwell and Phil Davis have helped to prepare Ruth for next weekend’s upcoming test. When asked what the fans in Honolulu can expect, Ruth had this to say.

“Expect them to see a very happy and spirited individual,” said Ruth with a chuckle. “And I also want them to expect to see a great show, you know? Either a first round knockout or a three round war.”

Hawaii is set to host Bellator cards on back-to-back nights, Dec. 14 and 15, from the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu. Men’s lightweight and women’s flyweight titles will be on the line in the main events, and both cards feature top talent including Frank Mir, A.J. McKee, and Lyoto Machida to name a few.

Bellator 212 takes place on Friday Dec. 14 and will be broadcast via the American Forces Network along with Paramount Network, MTV 2 and DAZN

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