After 30 professional fights and more than five years of competition, veteran fighter Anthony Ruiz (20-10) has gotten the "big" contract every seasoned veteran hopes to land. The 30-year-old Ruiz and the California-based Strikeforce organization recently inked a six-fight deal that could be worth up to nearly $150,000. It also promises Ruiz an immediate title shot and the possibility of fighting in a $100,000 four-man light-heavyweight tournament later this year. Ruiz spoke to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.
com) earlier today about that contract, his upcoming title shot, why a rumored deal with the UFC never panned out, and his recent string of success. Ruiz, a Team Voodoo fighter, last fought for Strikeforce back in November and defeated world light heavyweight champion Bobby Southworth with a second-round TKO. Unfortunately for Ruiz, it was a non-title fight.
"The last time we fought, the day of the fight, we made [Strikeforce officials] add that into the contract -- that I'd get a title shot if I beat him," said Ruiz, who never got a clear answer on why the first bout wasn't for the belt. Although the fight hasn't been announced and contracts haven't been signed, Ruiz said he and Southworth have agreed to meet at Strikeforce's June 27 event, which takes place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. MMAjunkie.com first reported the Southworth-Ruiz fight last week. The contract that led to the upcoming title fight first came about in January, when Ruiz emerged as a possible opponent for David Heath at UFC 81.
Ruiz confirmed he was in negotiations with the UFC but ultimately was offered a better deal with Strikeforce. "(UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva called me, and he offered a four-fight contract, and that (deal) would only be worth about $80,000 at most," he said. "Sometimes the UFC -- they'll use you as a stepping stone, and if they want, they can cancel the contract whenever they want to. "We know the owners of Strikeforce and had fought for them, so we threw it out to them, and they came back with a better deal for me." Ruiz, who said he'd still like to fight for the UFC someday, said the Strikeforce offer was just too good to pass up.
In addition to the title fight with Southworth, Ruiz will also be able to compete outside the organization with EliteXC, Rumble on the Rock, and other promotions that Strikeforce approves. Additionally, if he wins the title in June, Ruiz said he could be a part of a possible four-man light heavyweight tournament. "There's word that toward the end of the end of the year, there could be a tournament, and if I'm the champion, I put [the belt] on the line," Ruiz said. "They're talking about getting Babalu (Renato Sobral), (Vitor) Belfort and Kevin Randleman. The winner would get $100,000.
I'd love to compete in that. but they're still just planning it right now." Strikeforce hosted a four-man middleweight tournament back in November, and Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker has mentioned he'd like to do another one this year. Although he admitted it wouldn't be an easy feat, Ruiz said he's welcome the challenge of the tournament. Confidence has been in abundant supply lately as Ruiz has pieced together a six-fight win streak -- with 11 victories in his past 13 fights.
He most recently defeated UFC veteran and "The Ultimate Fighter 2" runner-up Brad Imes at a January Palace Fighting Championships event. Ruiz gave up 70 pounds in the fight but still managed a split-decision victory. "It's all about experience," Ruiz said. "It's just that I've been in there so many times that I'm really able to think and use my brain. Early in my career, I'd go on a rage. I'd come out there charging and swinging 100 percent when I should have been playing a smart game.
I know I just need to outsmart them now." Ruiz, who also serves as an assistant high school wrestling coach and a seasonal fireman battling California wildfires, said he ultimately wants to retire on top. Then, he'd like to either turn to broadcasting or running his own fight team.
"I really love the sport, and I want to remain a part of it," said Ruiz. "Luckily, my sponsors CagesideMMA.com, Respek Fightwear, Toe2Toe and KO Dynasty keep me going for now. "But I'd really like to run my own fight team with my own guys someday. I'd also like to be a commentator. I've known the sport for a long time.
I know just about every move you'll see, and I'm pretty good at being a people's person. If I grow out my hair, I think I could look like a decent human being. I'm just going for the tough-guy look now." For more on Ruiz and his upcoming bout, check out our story on the June 27 event, which features a main event between world lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and challenger Nick Thomson.
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