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Former UFC fighter ready for MMA Xplosion event

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Justin M. Bowen

Jon Madsen ((left) and Justin Wren face off during the TUF10 Finale weigh-ins on Dec. 4, 209, at the Palms.

If You Go

  • What: MMA Xplosion: Super Fight Night II
  • When: Saturday 8 p.m.
  • Where: The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

For most fighters, signing a UFC contract is the chance of a lifetime. But for TUF 10 cast member Justin Wren, being released from the promotion was just what his career needed.

“I honestly think that being cut was the best thing the UFC could have done for me,” he said. “I get to go out and build my record, build my career and take things at my own pace.”

Wren now looks to extend his 7-2 record when he takes on heavyweight boxer Reggie Higgins (3-0) in the main event of Saturday’s MMA Xplosion card at the Hard Rock Hotel.

At 23 years old, Wren, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, was one of the youngest and least experienced cast members on TUF 10.

He had no formal training in striking going into the show but used his background in wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu to advance to the show’s quarterfinals. He was eliminated in a controversial majority-decision loss to eventual TUF 10 champion Roy Nelson.

That defeat was followed by another close split-decision loss to Jon Madsen at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale in December, leading to Wren’s termination from the UFC.

“I never want a fight going to a decision again,” Wren said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to end this fight.”

Since the show’s completion, Wren has been working on becoming more well-rounded, training at Grudge Training Center in Denver with fellow TUF 10 alumni Brendan Shaub and TUF 10 assistant coach Trevor Wittman.

“I’m excited for Saturday night,” Wren said. “I’m going to come out a much better fighter than I was on the Ultimate Fighter and much better than I was when I fought Jon Madsen.”

Higgins, however, believes Wren’s experience on The Ultimate Fighter could work against him.

“The pressure probably falls squarely on his shoulders, simply because of the fact that he is the known guy. He was on the show. He was in the UFC, and I’m basically an unknown entity,” Higgins said.

Higgins doesn’t only contrast Wren in terms of exposure but also in his fighting style.

The 41-year old fighter from New Haven, Conn., enjoyed a successful career as an amateur boxer — he went 20-4 and won three regional Golden Gloves tournaments — before making the switch to MMA six years ago.

“In MMA, you have a lot more options available to you, whether it’s submissions, ground work or striking,” Higgins said.

His appreciation for the ground game has made him a threat on the ground.

“That’s what surprises people,” Higgins said. “They hear I’m a striker, but my first two wins were submissions. I’m just as capable on the ground as I am on my feet.”

The ability to end a fight from any position has made Higgins confident he will pull off the victory.

“I’m going into this fight unknown but I think after Saturday night, people will remember my name.”

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