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Ruiz relishes role in and out of ring

Title fulfills promise to family, readies welterweight to pursue pro dream


Ray Kasprowicz/

Alex Ruiz, center, celebrates with Filipino MMA team members Bill Garness and Erik Cruz after his 155-pound title victory over Christian Palencia at the Tuff-N-Uff show on April 24, 2009 at the Orleans.

Editor's Note: UNLV journalism students Jennifer Miller, Ashley Kringen and Michael Jackson created this multimedia project about amateur mixed martial arts organization Tuff-N-Uff for their spring semester sports journalism class at the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies.

Filipino MMA

Amateur fighters Gor Mnatsakanyan, Rudy Morales and Alex Ruiz offer a backstage look at the unique combat principles and training being taught at Filipino MMA.


Alex Ruiz walks towards the ring for his 155-pound title fight against Christian Palencia at the Tuff-N-Uff show on April 24, 2009 at the Orleans. Launch slideshow »

Humble is one word that follows Alex Odis Ruiz in and out of the ring.

The 25-year-old mixed martial artist is sponsored by “Humble Me Clothing,” and to his friends, sponsors, and coaches, the brand fits Ruiz to a “T.”

“Alex is a very humble fighter, not a cocky fighter, he’s not a meathead,” said Bill Garness, owner of the gym Filipino MMA and one of Ruiz’s coaches. “He’s polite and mild-headed.”

Those traits may have been partly responsible for Ruiz’s recent success. The 155-pounder (6-2-0) has won three bouts in a row, including a unanimous decision victory over Christian Palencia at the April 24 Tuff-N-Uff show that secured Ruiz the welterweight crown.

But the belt represents more than just another win for his record, rather a promise he made to his family — especially a dedication of excellence he swore to his grandmother, who passed away four months ago.

Ruiz — who began training Kung Fu as a 7-year-old in his native Madrid — transitioned his way into boxing as a teenager after shadowing his dad’s interest in the sport. But it wasn’t until Ruiz moved to Las Vegas in 1999 that he began his journey into MMA.

Training at Filipino MMA for almost a year now, Ruiz has aimed to perfect his game by practicing Filipino style combat, which consists Arnis and Kali fighting (stick and knife fighting). This technique, which mimics fatal moves, helps fighters increase hand speed and strengthen wrist control — which they can then apply inside the ring or cage.

While Ruiz could train at any of Las Vegas' top-notched MMA gyms, he’s decided to stay at Filipino MMA because of the strong support from his coaches, Garness and Erick Cruz.

“They know what I want and why I fight. Therefore, I see them not just as my coaches, but as my mentors and as a part of my family,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz’s coaches and sponsors are equally loyal.

“When I first started sponsoring Alex, he was (0-0) and to see where he’s at now is incredible…I’d continue to sponsor Alex no matter what road he goes down,” said Chris Irwin, a sponsor from the Gun Store Range.

Ruiz, who has fought every month since July 2008, says the sport has truly become a lifestyle for him. That’s evident in his constant weight loss, which can be as significant as 25 pounds at a time.

“My training consists of a lot of cardio, endurance, and power. A lot of footwork and to be able to dominate my opponent in every way, ground or standup, to push him to the limits,” Ruiz said.

Mentally, Ruiz says he’s developed a professional mindset from his specialized training and he’s positive that some day soon, perhaps even this summer, he will make his pro debut.

“I see myself fighting as a professional fighter and to make it to the top, get that title belt and get on the road, keep on going, he said.”

No matter where Ruiz’ MMA path takes him, he's certain his family will remain at the center of his focus because he ultimately wants to not only make them proud, but provide financially for them.

With a Spanish mother and Brazilian father, Ruiz embraces his multi-cultural heritage. Over his lifespan, he has learned six different languages; Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Italian, French, and English.

“I look at it like a gift, so I always keep the traditions going … even though here, we don’t do it as much as we would in our country, but keeping together with the family is what matters.”

Ruiz lives by those traits and although he describes himself as a respectful man in everyday life, he warns that once in the ring he morphs into a whole new person.

“They should be prepared for power, ground and stand-up. I work for everything, I put everything even. I aim to destroy any weaknesses, so they can’t find them.”

Kringen is is a UNLV undergraduate in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies.

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