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Jim Range | Knuckle Junkies photo

Road To Bellator - Ruth Returns

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Now pain-free, Rebecca Ruth is primed and ready to get back into the cage.

Closing in on two years since her last outing with the promotion, Ruth makes her Bellator return Friday when she faces Julia Velasquez at Bellator 197 at the Family Arena. Ruth (6-2) has not fought since falling to current Bellator women's flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in June 2016. She was on a four-fight winning streak heading into that bout. She spent the bulk of 2017 dealing with two injuries.

"It was super rough," Ruth said. "I had a back injury, and then I had a fight set for the summer, and in the middle of training, I broke my arm. So, I've been getting healthy and training all the time in order to stay current and be ready and be in shape in case I got a (short-notice) call. Bellator has been good about being patient and rolling with punches, literally."

Velasquez (6-0) is coming off a second-round submission win over Na Liang at Bellator 189 in December. That was the 31-year-old Brazilian's Bellator debut and her first time at flyweight after spending her career at 135.

Ruth, like all of the locals on the card, hasn't been given a layup. Ruth, Justin Lawrence, Josh Sampo, and Joaquin Buckley are all matched against certified hammers.

"There are no walkovers even though it is a hometown show," she said. "And I'd rather it be that way and have a true opponent. Hopefully, it will be a stand-up war, but you never know. You keep training everything and expect the unexpected."

Ruth, 39, is a mother of a 14-year-old-son and a 10-year-old daughter. Last year's injuries forced her to go back to working full-time, and she is an estimator for a lighting company. Most of her days are broken down like this; work, gym, and the kids.

"My kids play all kinds of sports," she said. "Baseball, basketball, dance. My daughter is in kickboxing, and she is amazing. She's a lot better than I am. She's already a beast in the cage. She has come up the ranks in martial arts and point fighting tournaments. I'm more excited about watching these (21st Century) kids compete at nationals this summer than anything. They are going to blow it out of the water this year."

Ruth started her pro MMA career winning two-straight. She made a trip down to 115 and fought for the RFA in October 2014, where she lost a split decision to current UFC strawweight Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-2). After that loss, she returned to 125 and rattled off four-straight wins, including her Bellator debut.

Ruth crafted her skill set under the tutelage of Benny Voyles at Pacific's 21st Century MMA. She played a variety of sports in high school including softball, volleyball and basketball and would later move on to the college level and compete in softball at Meramec Community College before getting to play NCAA Division I softball at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Ruth walked into Voyles' gym that first day as a mom looking to get a workout. But once her skill set in kickboxing started to develop, Voyles encouraged her to try out a local competition. She began kickboxing in 2006 at the age of 28 and posted a 9-0 record in the amateur ranks. Ruth stepped into the boxing ring and was a St Louis Golden Gloves Champion in the 2011 with a 3-0 record fighting up a class.

At 21st Century MMA, Ruth doesn't have the convenience of having multiple female training partners. Fortunately, Voyles has plenty of contacts in the business and has occasionally brought in women to train.

"I believe in Benny and 110-percent of what he has me do," Ruth said. "I go on his word. It hasn't failed me ever."

But the majority of the time she is sparring and rolling with men. Ruth sees the benefit of consistently having a fellow female in the room, but it is not an end-all.

"Is it necessary? No. Is it helpful? Yes," she said "I have had many training camps where there weren't that many girls and gotten through quite a few without them. There are guys my size here, and they aren't taking easy, and they don't have any sympathy, I assure you. They're going all out."

Tickets for Bellator 197 are available from the Family Arena box office: http://familyarena.com/event/bellator-mma-primus-vs-chandler/

Full fight card:

Michael Chandler vs Brandon Girtz
Justin Lawrence vs A.J. McKee
Kevin Ferguson Jr vs Devon Brock
Joaquin Buckley vs Logan Storley

Prelims
Rebecca Ruth vs Juliana Velasquez
Josh Sampo vs Dominic Mazzotta
Zak Bucia vs Derek Anderson
Jordan Howard vs Eric Ellington
AJ Siscoe vs Justin Robbins
Jordan Dowdy vs Jeff Crotty
Adam Cella vs Dewayne Diggs
Cort Wahle vs Joe Roye

Bellator 197 - Chandler vs Girtz
Friday, April 13th
The Family Arena, St. Charles, MO

NFA Fight Before X-mas | Sat, December 15th
Casa Loma Ballroom, St. Louis, MO

Shamrock FC 314 | Sat, January 12th
Ameristar Casino, St. Charles, MO

Fight Hard MMA | Sat, March 9th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO