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Local MMA fighter has Bellator debut Friday

Nick "Little Ninja" Sperling eyes his opponent during a Gladiator Challenge fight. Sperling will compete in a Bellator 133 preliminary flyweight bout with Paul Ruiz Friday night at the Sav Mart Center in Fresno.
Courtesy of Nick Sperling/ Photo by James Anderson/www.V103.net |

Gladiator Challenge bantamweight champion Nick “Little Ninja” Sperling is riding a five fight winning streak as he heads into the biggest bout of his career.

On Friday, Sperling will take on Paul Ruiz in a preliminary flyweight (125-pounds) bout at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. The event will be streamed live on Spike.com with the prelims starting at 5 p.m. and the main card tapping gloves at 6 p.m.

Sperling, 35, who trains with Team Carnage in Sacramento, Gold Country Jiu-Jitsu in Auburn and coaches at Powerhouse MMA in Grass Valley, was surprised by the opportunity.



When his coach Mike Rumsey told him he was offered the fight at Bellator 133 Sperling jumped at the chance.

“I thought my coach was playing a joke on me and when I realized he was serious I said ‘let’s do it,’” Sperling said. “Mike asked me if I wanted to know who I was fighting and I said ‘no.’”




Sperling’s challenge is no easy task as Ruiz has an impressive MMA background.

Ruiz, 26, trains at Thrive MMA in Fresno and has well-rounded skills in wrestling, Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu.

This will be Ruiz’s third fight for Bellator and he is coming off a three round defeat by unanimous decision at Bellator 125.

“My opponent and I are very similar and I expect a tough fight,” said Sperling. “I’m ready to do whatever it takes to win and I’m sure my opponent is ready to do the same. As for this match being in Bellator and televised, I’m excited and ready to step up to this challenge. I trained hard for this and with all the help and support I get from my family, teammates, friends and faith I feel like I can do anything.”

Sperling will have his support system at the fight, to which he credits for his success.

“My wife and kids are a big motivation to work hard and never give up at anything I’m doing,” he said. “My family along with my coaches and teammates inspire me to keep pushing myself and to believe that hard work pays off. To me this fight is a chance to test myself in a world class promotion and at the same time I get share the experience with all my team. This opportunity to compete in Bellator is a chance to grow in my career and as a competitor. To have this shot at fighting in Bellator and what it means to me… is to never give up.”

Sperling is on a five-fight winning streak with a history of finishing his opponents early and said he will look to finish his opponent before the final bell.

To prepare for this fight Sperling worked on wrestling with his coach Eric Ferreira and also trained at Gold Country Jiu-Jitsu where he is a blue belt under Michael Quaintance.

Sperling works on his striking and submissions with coaches Kyle Zerbel and Lisa Jeanson at Powerhouse MMA.

For the upcoming bout, Sperling did weekly sparring sessions with training partners Jack Duffy, Lucas Espinoza, Zerbel, Jeanson, Ferreira, Freddy Anderson and Charley Huston.

Sperling’s sponsors include Penkala Construction, 49er Overhead Garage Door, Vehicle Wraps Incorporated, Nutrishop, Harding Custom Builders, Steve Bennett Construction and Leonard Padilla Bail Bonds.

With all the help from his coaches, training partners and sponsors Sperling hopes to add to his winning streak and bring home a victory from Bellator 133.

For those who would like to attend the event, tickets can be purchased from the Bellator website. Be sure to put Nick Sperling in the promo box. For more info on Sperling visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NickandBeckySperling?fref=ts.

Joe Cannon is a free lance sports writer.


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