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    Ruth putting the pieces together in MMA

    In 1766, British cartographer John Spilsbury had a unique idea to teach geography. He attached a map to a piece of wood, traced the various country borders with a saw and invented what he called "dissected maps." After receiving positive feedback from his peers, he created more of what we now know as jigsaw puzzles and launched a successful business. Over 250 years later, the fact that jigsaw puzzles are still commonplace says something about the innate human desire to make things fit together.

    Ed Ruth (Photo/Bellator)
    Ed Ruth won three NCAA titles for Penn State and represented the U.S. at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships. However, he left the sport for MMA in 2016. While many wrestlers try MMA after they are done on the mats, there was something specific that drew Ruth's attention. It was the same something that made Spilsbury's invention a success so many years ago.

    "I was kind of going around by myself, hanging out with other fighters and checking out gyms, and it just kind of grew on me," Ruth said. "I just liked the fact that it was truly mixed martial arts. It was a collection of sports. It just kind of allowed an individual to be who they are. Whoever was able to put all these disciplines together the best was the one who was going to win. I always thought that was cool, putting everything together, put the patterns together better. I'm also a big puzzle guy."

    So far in his MMA career, Ruth has seemingly had very little trouble putting the pieces together. He has won all five of his fights including four knockouts. Despite the success, the former Nittany Lion is far from content.

    "I've always been my worst coach, my worst critic," he said. "I always want to see more. I always want to see more knockouts. I always want to see more technique, and I have to put in a little bit extra."

    Last year, Ruth had the opportunity to return to his collegiate stomping grounds for a fight. He faced off against Chris Dempsey at the Bryce Jordan Center on campus at Penn State, and he won the fight via second-round knockout.

    "It was a great experience," Ruth said. "There is nothing like being able to bring back what you love to the people that you love. I was able to bring that back to State College where everything started. I felt like that was just a big honor. It was like when you are going home. You feel comfortable at home. It just felt like I couldn't lose. Even if I did lose, it felt like I couldn't lose. It just felt so comforting to be there."

    On Friday, Ruth faces his toughest MMA opponent to date. Andy Murad is a 15-year professional who holds a 16-2 record. Ruth sees the fight as much more of an opportunity than a challenge.

    "I feel like a win over him would be great, because people could see not only have I been putting in work and putting in time, but I am actually learning," he said. "With a guy like Andy Murad, having all those fights and that experience, it's just like his experience adds to my experience. I soak it up just by me fighting him, just by experiencing how he moves and how he reacts to me. I want to see how much stuff he's taking into this fight from his fights."

    Ed Ruth wrestling Deron Winn at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    When asked about his overall impression of wrestlers transitioning into MMA, Ruth sounds almost as enthusiastic as Spilsbury would have been selling his puzzles.

    "I always tell them, you're making a great decision, because honestly I do feel like this is a great sport," Ruth said. "I love what it teaches you. I love how it forces you to get out of your comfort zone. It will teach you more about being human than anything else will, because you have to beat someone else to be a fighter. You have to literally step in the cage with the only thing in the world that you own, which is your intellect and your body."

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