When heavyweight Abe Wagner signed with Bellator Fighting Championships, the fighter looked at the promotion not as just an opportunity, but also as a challenge.

“The biggest reason I signed with Bellator was the chance to test myself against opponents with a higher skill level,” the veteran told The MMA Corner.

Wagner is know by most fans for his appearance on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter.  With Bellator being broadcast on MTV2, Wagner is eager to erase that memory.

“I think a lot of people are familiar with me from TUF, but that was a poor performance,” admitted Wagner.  “I’m excited to show people what I’m capable of and the skills and talent that I have.”

Over the past two years, Wagner has stepped into the cage with current UFC fighters Travis Browne and Aaron Rosa, as well as former UFC champion Tim Sylvia, whom he knocked out in just 32 seconds.  Rosa, meanwhile, got the better of Wagner earlier in the year, which has motivated Wagner entering the tournament.

“I think Rosa exposed a couple weaknesses I had and I’ve worked hard to shore those up,” Wagner explained.  “I’ve drilled my techniques a lot more cleanly and I’m a lot sharper of a fighter.”

The tournament format used in Bellator is something that can put strain on any fighter.  The prospect of fighting once a month is a tall task, but Wagner feels he is prepared.

“I’m in pretty good condition,” the fighter said.  “It will come down to winning as efficiently as possible.  You don’t want to take any damage, so you can get back to training right after each fight.”

In addition to the frequency of the fights under the tournament, the opening rounds prevent elbow strikes to the head of opponents.  When asked if the rule change would change his strategy, Wagner openly admitted he didn’t know about the rule.

Abe Wagner (L) delivers a kick (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

“That’s a great rule,” said the surprised fighter with a laugh.  “A cut can really put a damper on training for a couple weeks while it heals.”

Wagner’s opening round opponent is Eric Prindle, a heavy-handed fighter that has scored knockouts in five of his seven wins.  The two fighters are a recipe for fireworks, but Wagner is confident in the outcome.

“I think we’ll come out and test each other’s standup,” Wagner predicted.  “I don’t know whose is better at this point, but I’ll obviously figure it out pretty quickly when I get in there.  I’ll make it a different fight if I need to, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to knock him out.”

A win over Prindle would put Wagner one step closer to a crack at current Bellator champ Cole Konrad, but the Nebraska-based fighter is focused on the task at hand.

“I’m just trying to take it one fight at a time,” stated Wagner.  “There are six other guys besides me and Prindle in the tournament and four fighters won’t move forward.”

Should he win the tournament and set up a showdown with Konrad, Wagner is aware of the skills the champion possesses.

“He’s a dominant wrestler,” acknowledged Wagner.  “That presents a different set of problems from my current opponent.  But, (in the end) I think I’d find a way to win.”

Wagner’s road to the title starts Oct. 1 at Bellator 52 from Lake Charles, La.

Top Photo: Abe Wagner (r) battles Justin Grizzard (McColgan Photography/VictoryFighter.com)

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