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HONOLULU – For a while there, courtesy of a tight-looking triangle choke, it seemed like Neiman Gracie wouldn’t need too much time to stamp his title shot Saturday at Bellator 213.
Despite the fact Gracie (9-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) had a tough, unbeaten foe in Ed Ruth (6-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA), that wouldn’t have been such a surprise. Gracie has, after all, submitted all but one of his opponents. And it had never taken him more than two rounds to do it.
Ruth, however, was able to break free from the choke that Gracie secured in the first round of their welterweight grand prix quarterfinal. It would take a few attempts and three-and-a-half rounds for a submission attempt to result in a tap.
The fact that Ruth made Gracie work harder, however, didn’t upset Gracie. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“It was really fun,” Gracie told reporters, including MMAjunkie, backstage at Neal S. Blaisdell Center. “I was telling people backstage that I’m glad I didn’t get the triangle in the beginning, because I’m glad I went four rounds. I wanted to see how I’m going to do in four rounds, and I feel great, man.”
It was an interesting match as Gracie was able to score takedowns over a wresting ace in Ruth – who, in turn, showed some real skill in defending Gracie’s notoriously dangerous submission attempts. As it turns out, the dynamics were a bit of a surprise for Gracie, too.
“I didn’t expect him to have good submission defense. He defended really well,” Gracie said. “But, man, I train really hard. People don’t know, but all I do in my life is eat, sleep and train. I train so much, and it was just a matter of time to show everyone.”
Although Gracie also was happy to showcase a little bit more of his striking, he says there’s still a lot more where it came from. “But it’s coming,” he says, and that will certainly come in handy considering what the not-so-distant future holds for the grappling ace.
By beating Ruth, Gracie not only advanced to the semifinals of Bellator’s welterweight grand prix, but he secured a title shot. His next fight will be against the winner of a match between Jon Fitch and champ Rory MacDonald – who’s putting his belt on the line in each of his tournament bouts.
Regardless of who comes out victorious in the expected March matchup, it will be a big step up in competition for the 30-year-old fighter. But Gracie, who doesn’t know or care who that is, is clearly confident that he can handle it.
“I will be a champion,” Gracie said. “It’s a dream come true. Everything is aligning for me to be a champion. I will be a champion. I was born for this. I was born and bred for this.”
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