Abe Wagner’s Ultimate Fighter Blog: My Wrestling Needed Work

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Following each episode of The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights, Team Rampage member Abe Wagner will share his thoughts on what happened on camera and behind the scenes.

Hello, my name is Abe Wagner and I’ll be doing a weekly blog here at Fightmagazine.com. I fight out of Omaha, Neb. and have a professional record of 7-2.

Obviously I was involved a lot in today’s episode. I’ll try to go in order of the episode, though I’m sure you’re dying to hear what I have to say about the fight at the end of it. But all in due time.

To start out, they showed the coaches jawing with each other, and all I can say here is that they truly seemed to dislike each other and that part of the show will only get better from here on out. A lot of funny stuff is about to happen as it relates to their rivalry.

When we all got to the training center, it was a lot like the first day of school. Some people you know, some you’ve never seen before in your life and everyone trying to figure out where everyone else fits in. Dana White lined us all up. At this point, me being the mathematician that I am, couldn’t help but notice that there was an odd number of us and something was missing. Sure enough, there was a surprise fighter: Kimbo MF’ing Slice. Most of what I knew of him was from youtube like everyone else, so I was curious to see what he was all about.

Then there were the evaluations, each set of coaches got an hour with us to evaluate us. They each had drastically different methods of evaluation. Team Rashad’s evals consisted of grappling and hitting bags, whereas Team Rampage’s consisted of more sparring type drills.

Now on to the interesting stuff; I was Rampage’s second pick overall after evaluations. Right after our team was formed, Rampage asked who wanted to fight right away, and me and one or two other guys raised their hands. Nothing really further was decided at that time, but about a half hour before the first fight announcement (and incidentally before we even had our first team practice) he approached me and told me he wanted me to fight first. I told him I was game and asked who he had in mind.

He told me John Madsen. I told him that while my stand up was good and my jiu jitsu was decent, my wrestling needed work and sometimes I’ll have trouble with a good wrestler. He told me he thought Madsen was only an average wrestler and not to worry about it. It turns out he’s a two-time national champion wrestler and that’s possibly the understatement of the year for me. I still didn’t think it was a good match up for me, but at some point, you just have to say that you’re there to fight and fight whoever is chosen for you. I just didn’t get why if we had control, he wouldn’t have picked someone I matched up better with. I didn’t think it was a very good strategic move for me or Team Rampage.

On to the fight: First off, any one that knows me or has been involved with me in organized athletics knows that I throw up before every competition. This goes all the way back to high school and through college, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary for me there. I had the foresight to warn Rampage in advance, otherwise who knows what he’d have done.

Round 1: We both came out and touched gloves (something I’d later regret in round 2) and after a bit of feeling out, Madsen shoots and takes me down. I felt like everything was going pretty ok for me at this point. I started working my legs up in high guard to start looking for a submission. But I was kind of wedged up against the cage and it made it hard for my hips to be as mobile as I would have liked. Also I was against his corner, so it was very hard for me to hear my corner because his coaches were so loud. At some point he caught me with an elbow that made a pretty bad cut. At this time, I didn’t really feel it, but I did feel the blood running down my forehead. Then I looked over and saw a puddle of my own blood. All I really thought at this point was “Great, that’s happening.” It didn’t really affect me mentally. We spent the whole round in his corner, him on top. In the final seconds I was able to hit a scissors sweep, but frustratingly, it was too late to do anything with it.

Round 2 began with us touching gloves and him immediately shooting upon doing so. I know, I know, “protect yourself at all times”…but in all, I think it was a bit of a shady move. At this point, we’re both too covered in sweat and blood for any jiu jitsu to be effective. I kept trying to work my legs up or control his arms, but things were just too slippery. I was overall unable to stop his take downs and that’s what lost me the fight. He controlled me on the ground without much recourse on my part and I lost a decision.

I guess one of the main reasons I fight is self-exploration. And what I learned about myself from this fight is that even when I find myself in a bad situation, quitting is not in me. The whole fight I kept trying to find something that’d work even though I wasn’t having much success with it. Also, I think a lot of fighters wouldn’t have come out for the second round.

The most disappointing thing for me was that I didn’t really get to show anything that I’m capable of or any of the skills I have. I wouldn’t have minded losing as much if I had at least fought well in doing so. Hopefully, this one fight is not all that the world gets to see of me and what I can do, and I will make the most of future opportunities to show my skills.

Some things about the experience of fighting on The Ultimate Fighter:

You fight in the middle of the afternoon, in the place you train every day, in front of 20-30 people, against a guy that you live with. It honestly didn’t feel that much like a real fight to me, more like a sparring session. My training partners and coaches can tell you I’m nothing special on a Tuesday afternoon, but when it’s Saturday in the arena, that’s when the best comes out of me. For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel “up” for the fight. It just felt more like the excitement level of a sparring session rather than a fight.

I’m not going to make excuses for my performance, I knew that my wrestling needed work coming into the competition, so the fight didn’t really illuminate anything for me there. But it did add a sense of urgency to learning it, and I’ve been working diligently on that aspect of my game since then to become a more well-rounded fighter.

That’s my take on the first episode of the season. Trust me, there’s still plenty more show to watch and a lot can (and did) happen in the next 11 episodes.

For more on me, check out www.abewagnerfights.com.

Read the recap of the first episode of The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights.

Read Matt Mitrione’s TUF blog.

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