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Phil Davis foresees fellow Penn State alum Ed Ruth becoming ‘massive star’ in MMA

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Hunter Marin, Getty

Perhaps it’s fitting that the three-time NCAA collegiate wrestling champion Ed Ruth will make his mixed martial arts debut on the same night that Phil Davis fights for a title.

The former Penn State wrestlers are linked to University Park, Pennsylvania, where both attended college and excelled as wrestlers. The 26-year old Ruth is from the same town as Davis — Harrisburg, PA — and, it seems, everything Davis does first, Ruth does better in the end.

Now Ruth is debuting at Bellator 163 on Nov. 4 at the Mohegan Sun, and Davis is left to wonder just how long it’ll be before the MMA prospect begins to trump his own feats.

Davis was asked about Ruth on the Bellator 163 media call on Wednesday.

"I don’t like him," Davis joked. "I’ll tell you what, he’s more handsome than I am. The guy goes to my alma mater, he’s from my hometown, he destroys every single record I ever had — pins, wins, Big 10 championships, national championships. I mean, my parade through my city as the best wrestler of all time was so short-lived.

"Now this man is back into MMA, and he’s going to make a huge splash and become a massive star and champion in his own right. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. That’s what I think about him. I don’t know what to do. Everywhere I go, he goes, and he does it even better."

Ruth arrives in the world of MMA as an intrigue, given his decorated wrestling pedigree. He will take on Mark Mangiardi during the prelims portion of the show, which will stream live on Bellator.com. Meanwhile the 32-year old Davis, who is 3-0 since signing with Bellator back in April 2015, will face Liam McGeary for the light heavyweight title.

Also making his debut on the prelims at Bellator 163 is Tyrell Fortune, a heavyweight wrestler who was a member of the U.S. national wrestling team. Fortune was named the 2013 Division II wrestler of the year while competing in college at Grand Canyon University in Arizona, and was also a two-time NJCAA champion at Clackamas Community College in Oregon.

Fortune will fight Cody Miskell in his first ever pro fight.

Bellator president Scott Coker was asked about Ruth and Fortune debuting on the same card, and he said that it was part of Bellator’s broad plan to harness prospects.

"It goes back to our commitment to build this roster and to find the next stars of our sport," he said. "We’ve always felt that in the wrestling space there’s been a lot of talent out there — like the Ed Ruths and the Fortunes and the [Aaron] Picos — and we made a conscious decision to go out and grab as many was we could, and…having them start training in MMA. The transition —  for the guys I’ve been keeping in touch with — has been pretty good. They’re ready to go.

"And we signed Ed Ruth I want to say six, eight months ago — maybe eight months ago — and we’ve been making sure he’s in the right camp, and has the right sparring partners. We’ve got high hopes for some of these kids, but at the end of the day they’re going to have to go out there and they’re going to have to fight. It’s different than just wrestling. It’s one of the disciplines that’s important in mixed martial arts, but at the end of the day someone’s going to be punching him and kneeing him.

"It’s a much different game, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this turns out. But we have high hopes for our wrestling prospects in Bellator."