Middleweight Ed Ruth is heading back to Penn State University on Friday, November 3, when he takes on Chris Dempsey at Bellator 186. The fight, which will be held at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, will be Ruth’s fourth as a professional mixed martial artist.
Now 27, Ruth, in his wrestling days, was a three-time NCAA champion and competed at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships and the 2015 Wrestling World Cup.
Ahead of his fight with Dempsey, the Harrisburg native caught up with Fighters Only contributor Tony Reid.
Question: Next Friday you will be taking on Chris Dempsey, a fellow PA fighter, who has a lot more experience than you. What are your thoughts on Chris as an opponent and what do you expect on fight night?
Q: You are a Penn State Wrestling legend who spent a lot of time at Rec Hall but also some time in the Bryce Jordan Center. What response do you expect to get from the crowd that night? Are we going to hear a lot of “Ruth” chants?
ER: It just feels like I am going back home. I feel so nostalgic every time I go back to Penn State. Just being back in front of that crowd will be amazing. I grew up with those people. I became who I became in front of those people. Now, for them to see me on another step, another leg of my journey, is great.
Q: Not only did you go to PSU, you were born in Harrisburg, which is only about an hour drive from campus. What type of response are you expecting from friends, family and former classmates?
ER: I’m expecting to see everybody. Once you go to college and then graduate, most people don’t go too far. I’ve only been graduated three years at this point. There are a lot of people still around Penn State that I would know. The last time I went back in September there were a lot of places that looked exactly the same as they did when I was there. I expect the turnout to be the same as it was when I was in college. We had a lot of alums and fans that supported us. They were at every single match. I am really banking on a lot of those people being there.
Q: Do you think Coach Sanderson will be in attendance?
ER: I really think so. I would hope so! He is my coach. To have your coach come back and see you doing some more stuff, that is awesome.
Q: Happy Valley is a completely unique experience. What do you miss most about your time at college?
ER: Wow. I really just miss the people. Even if you go back now it’s a new cycle of students. You just miss the people that were there. They really make the experience.
Q: How has your relationship with Ryan Gruhn, the owner and coach at CPAMMA, the number one gym in State College, evolved over the years?
ER: I was training with him for a couple of months. I was still wrestling at the same time. I was just loading up my practices. He was a very consistent guy. That was huge for me: to have anybody you are training with, a coach or a partner, be consistent. He has a very nice facility. I was going to him even before they had the facility they have now. I was training with him for some time now. He has always been the same guy. He’s a good coach and knows how to run a good establishment.
Q: You were there from the ground floor of PSU’s current run and the beginning of the Sanderson era. What are your thoughts on being such a big part of the growth of the program?
ER: It’s like you touched something and it turned to gold. You feel more pride in it. My first year on the team we started stacking up those championships. It’s amazing to say I was at the forefront of that. Right when that started was when my team came in. We have that team pride and all of that. You could feel that we were building something special. We really set something up there.
Q: We’ve talked a lot about your experience at Penn State, but your good friend and mentor Phil Davis is also on the card. How cool is it to be able to experience this with him?
ER: It will be nice. Every experience we have shared has seen him do it and me follow through after him. Now we are doing this at the same time. That just makes it that much better. He went to Penn State, then he went to the UFC and then on to Bellator. I was following in his footsteps. Even things that are going on in our lives right now, it’s like looking in a mirror.
Q: Bellator president Scott Coker said they only do approximately eight of these kind of shows each year – and that they will be doing it big in State College. What are your expectations?
ER: When anybody says they are going to do it big anywhere you just hope you are the cause of it. For someone to say they are going to do it big in Happy Valley, well, you better believe it’s going to be big. Just look at our football team. Those bleachers are always going to be filled. That’s doing it big. You just know that we will expect a lot!