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“As soon as I heard she was my opponent, I was thinking, ‘You know what, the one that I was reserving for Emily Ducote, she’s going to get it because they’re training together,'” Ruiz told reporters, including MMA Junkie, through an interpreter at a Wednesday media day at the UFC Apex.
Ruiz (9-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and fellow strawweight Buys (5-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) kick off the ESPN-broadcast main card of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 21 event at the UFC Apex, which airs following prelims on ESPN2.
Ahead of her UFC debut, Ruiz said she’s more excited than nervous and can’t wait to show that she belongs at the sport’s highest level.
“More than fear, I feel anxious to step into the cage and start fighting,” Ruiz said. “Probably at the moment I step into the cage, I’ll start feeling a little nervous, but so far I just feel more anxious to be competing and fighting.”
Hailing from Mexico, Ruiz has been tagged as a potential prospect for quite some time, fighting first in her native country and then traveling to the U.S. to compete twice under the Invicta FC banner. However, her debut for Invicta didn’t go exactly as planned, losing a decision to five-time UFC veteran Danielle Taylor.
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Despite the loss – which remains the lone setback of her career to date – Ruiz earned a call to the UFC after a first-round submission win over Janaisa Morandin this past July.
“I think the loss was one of the best things that could happen in my career because it made me touch the bottom, and I realized how much I want this,” Ruiz said. “I knew that UFC wasn’t that far away, but I knew that I had to work on some things, so that loss wasn’t something really, really bad in my career because I know that everybody has some bad days and bad nights, especially the fighters, so it was one of those for me, but it helped me a lot to improve and to keep focusing on my main goal.”
Prior getting the fight, Ruiz was set to face Emily Ducote at Invicta FC 43 this past November in a bout that was ultimately scrapped. Ducote’s camp included Buys as a primary training partner, tasked with mimicking Ruiz in sparring sessions.
Ruiz said she’s not worried about any added familiarity her opponent may have and is simply expecting a solid scrap.
“I think it’s a perfect matchup,” Ruiz said. “I know she’s a black belt in taekwondo and likes to go forward, but so do I. I like to go forward, I have a wrestling background, and I know this is going to be a good fight and a good war.”
It’s an opportunity to make an immediate impact for “Conejo,” as well. Making a UFC debut on the big stage of ESPN doesn’t happen all that often, and Ruiz believes it’s going to be her time to shine.
“I can’t wait to show what I’ve been waiting for here all this time,” Ruiz said. “I’m so happy to have this opportunity.”
To see the full availability with Ruiz, check out the video above.