At the time, the most notoriety Wagner had received was from being on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, where he lost to Jon Madsen via decision on the first episode.
With the lackluster outing on TUF 10, most people were not giving Wagner much of a shot against the much more experienced veteran, Sylvia.
However, Wagner proved experience is only useful if you learn from it. Otherwise you might just show up to a fight overweight, out-of-shape and over-confident.
And 32- seconds into the fight, the former UFC champ was down and it was the underdog whose hand was raised.
ProMMAnow.com’s (www.prommanow.com) Josh Cross caught up with Wagner to talk about his upcoming fight, to get his thoughts on Rosa and what the fans can expect to see on March 25.
Wagner also discussed what the win over Sylvia meant to him and if he still feels he has something to prove.
PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk about your training camp and how that is going?
ABE WAGNER: My training camp is going really well. I feel like I’m the best fighter that I’ve ever been, two weeks out from the fight. I feel very good about what I’m doing.
PRO MMA NOW: How much do you know about your opponent Aaron Rosa, and is there anything that you are sort of anticipating he will try to do during the fight?
ABE WAGNER: To me it looks like he likes to stand but it also looks like he’s got very good Jiu-Jitsu as well. I think he’s a pretty well rounded fighter. The fight could go any way really when you’re fighting a well-rounded fighter. You know what I mean?
PRO MMA NOW: Joe Kelly has said that this has all of the hallmarks of an epic slug-fest. Do you think this is going to be a stand up fight, or do you see it going to the ground at all?
ABE WAGNER: If it’s up to me it will be a stand up fight.
PRO MMA NOW: Now most of your fights haven’t made it out of the first round. Do you think that this fight won’t make it out of the first as well?
ABE WAGNER: It’s always my desire to finish the fight as soon as possible. That will be what I’m trying to do this time too. Whether or not I’m successful I think has more to do with him. But yeah, I’m going to try to end the fight as soon as I can.
PRO MMA NOW: Now you’re coming off of a major first round upset over Tim Sylvia. Does that win sort of boost your confidence and maybe your confidence in your striking ability going into this fight?
ABE WAGNER: Absolutely. It’s a huge boost in my confidence. Just moving forward in my career. Barring like you know world-class kick boxers, I really feel like I can stand up with anybody.
PRO MMA NOW: Now your opponent has a few more fights than you, do you feel like your viewed as an underdog coming into this fight like you were in your last fight, or do you think people have taken note of what you’re capable of?
ABE WAGNER: You know honestly, that thought hasn’t even crossed my mind as far as who might be favored and who might be the underdog because none of that matters once you’re locked in the cage. So yeah it hasn’t even occurred to me who might favored or who might be the underdog.
PRO MMA NOW: Now with the attention that Bobby Lashley and Phil Baroni have gotten as being part of this card, do you think that helps with your exposure to fans that might not have heard of you before, or do you feel that the addition of those two fighters might take away some of the attention to your fight?
ABE WAGNER: I think Titan put together a very solid card and there are several names on that card that people are going to want to watch fight, myself included. I think it’s more synergistic when you have a bunch of guys that people want to see fight rather than just like one or two names maybe. I think that it’s going to be a terrific card and I’m just excited to fight on it.
PRO MMA NOW: Now fans might recognize you from your time on season 10 of the Ultimate Fighter. Now you said that after your loss on the show aired, you got a lot of hate mail and that you felt like many people had a low level of respect for you and it was up to you to change that. After beating Tim Sylvia, did that feel like vindication for you? And do you feel like you still have to prove anything at all either to yourself or people watching?
ABE WAGNER: I definitely do think that it was redemption on some level. As far as still having something left to prove, I think every fighter still has something left to prove whether it be to themselves or to the fans. Otherwise they should probably stop fighting. As soon as you fight with nothing to prove, then I think you lose your edge. Going into this fight like I’m proving that it wasn’t a fluke. I think I always have something to prove.
PRO MMA NOW: Do you keep in touch with any of the guys still from TUF season 10 at all?
ABE WAGNER: Yeah I keep in touch with a few of them. I keep in touch with [Scott] Junk quite a bit and [Matt] Mitrione. Oddly enough, those two hate each other but I’m really good friends with both of them. Yeah I’d say that’s probably about it that I keep in contact with on a regular basis. I guess maybe Brendan Schaub.
PRO MMA NOW: What would you say that fans could expect when they tune in to watch your fight?
ABE WAGNER: I think they can expect some big shots to be thrown and I do think it will be a slug-fest. Like I said, it looks like he plans to keep it standing unless his opponent takes it down and I don’t plan to take it down, so it looks like we’re going to stand.
PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk a little about your relationship with Titan Fighting Championship, and what that has been like?
ABE WAGNER: I’ve only fought on their card once, but it’s been real solid for me. I think it’s a first class organization and I think they treat their fighters really well. It’s a great promotion to fight in.
PRO MMA NOW: Looking forward at your career in the sport is there anything specific that want to achieve or any person that you would like to get a fight with?
ABE WAGNER: There are lots of people that I would like to fight, but I try not to talk trash in public. As a goal I want to fight at the best level of competition possible and keep testing my skills against better and better opponents.
PRO MMA NOW: What would be the best way for fans to keep track of what you’ve got coming up?
ABE WAGNER: I don’t want to sound too much like a 12-year-old girl, but my Facebook (Facebook.com/abe.wagner) would be the best way to do that. (Laughs)
PRO MMA NOW: Are there any specific people or sponsors that you want to thank or plug?
PRO MMA NOW: Anything else that you want to add?
ABE WAGNER: I’m just really looking forward to the fight and it should be an exciting show for the fans.
Titan Fighting Championships 17 will air live on HDNet Friday, March 25, from the historic Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Tickets are on sale now at all local Ticketmaster outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com, as well as the Memorial Hall box office.