Bittersweet victory: Bellator heavyweight Eric Prindle discusses Thiago Santos and upcoming title fight with Cole Konrad

Photo of Eric Prindle via Bellator

Bellator heavyweight Eric Prindle doesn't like to be given anything, he'd rather earn it.

That's why his first reaction after learning he'd won the Bellator season five heavyweight tournament by default was more disappointment than excitement. Thiago Santos had over three months to prepare and make weight and he couldn't do it, missing by a whopping 11 pounds.

Prindle felt he had something to prove after the embarrassing no contest in their first match-up, being unable to continue after an "accidental" soccer kick to the groin while he was on the ground.

He'd received negative comments from naysayers who felt he'd milked the injury and wanted to prove that he could actually beat Santos, but now the possibility of that happening are slim to none.

Instead, "The American Soldier" will be battling Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad and he spoke with MMAmania.com about his thoughts on Santos missing weight, dealing with negativity and his upcoming title fight against Konrad in this exclusive interview.

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How does it feel to be the winner of the season five heavyweight tournament even though you didn't have to fight in the finals?

Eric Prindle: First of all, winning this thing is kind of bittersweet. I'm the type of person that I wants to earn what I do and I feel Thiago Santos disrespected me and Bellator by not making weight. He had months to prepare for this and then he had an extra week when the week prior, Bellator knew that he wasn't gonna make weight and I was sick so they wanted to make sure we had a conclusive end to our fight so they set the fight back a week, which everybody knows he did not make weight. He had a whole extra week on his part and he still didn't make weight. I still don't understand how that could happen.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that you've said your biggest motivation is to feed your family. That's gotta be good for your family once that check clears.

Eric Prindle: Oh definitely. Something a lot of people don't understand is, everybody thinks you win 100 grand if you win that fight but that's not the case. The case is, every fight you have, you earn so much and the way the contract is spread is, you may earn up to 100 grand throughout the tournament fights so if something happens, obviously you can earn 100 grand. Either way, I'm glad I'm fighting, I'm making money and I'm doing what I love. To have a job that you love and you're doing good, everything else is gravy.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You can be a bit of a sensitive guy, so did it really bother you when people were coming after you about the low blow and then later when you were really sick, them saying you didn't want to fight especially now knowing what you knew behind the scenes about Santos. How much did that bother you?

Eric Prindle: Oh yeah, big time. Especially when I was fine. I could have fought that Friday (at Bellator 61). I was in the army for 10 years. I've fought with a broken hand before, against Ron Sparks, my ankle was broke, you know what I'm saying? I'm not gonna quit because of being sick or something happened to me. Obviously, I've got my family and I don't want to lose but it did bother me a lot and it bothered me that people were saying that I didn't want to fight because I was sick especially because the commission deemed we wanted a more conclusive to the end of our fight. I was sick on Tuesday, was pretty much fine on Wednesday and was ready to cut weight on Thursday when they told me that there was going to be a problem. I guess they realized how heavy Santos was.

I think with me being sick earlier in the week and having to cut a lot of weight, they gave us both an extra chance, kind of like a godsend. It gave Santos an extra week but then he totally disrespected me, Bellator and the fans. I don't know if he thought it was going to be that easy of a fight or whatever but I can guarantee it wasn't gonna be an easy fight. I'm fighting for my family so I'm not gonna just turn over to a couple punches.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you agree with Bellator's decision to keep Santos on the roster after what he did?

Eric Prindle: That's not for me, I'd kind of want to political card on that one. For me, I wouldn't, but at the same time, he's a young guy. He has a lot of potential. I think if he learned some discipline and I've been thinking about it, he probably got a little bit of money, he was back in Brazil and he was living pretty good. The way it looked on his part, he had the fight with me and my ankle was still pretty much trashed from the Ron Sparks fight and the circumstances were that he went back to Brazil and he thinks he's gonna have an easy fight so he's living it up. I think he definitely learned that you can't cut 50 pounds in one day or whatever he had to cut. He learned from the situation and as far as Bellator, that's their decision.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With the first fight being a no contest in just over a minute and then the next two fights being cancelled, would you ever consider fighting him again say if he wins a tournament or something like that down the road?

Eric Prindle: I would fight him. Personally, I want to fight him for my own, I want to stop him from being able to take me down. I want to learn and grow as a fighter and as a man. I always want to challenge myself and if we fight again, I'm gonna do whatever I can to make the fight standing and make it an exciting fight. I definitely would fight him again especially if the money was there and if it was the right circumstances and I knew for a fact that he was going to make weight. At the same time, I think he learned his lesson. I think he's a good guy. I don't really know him personally but he's always been pretty respectful as far as shaking my hand and all that. I wish him the best and hope he's learned from the mistakes he's made.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's transition to the future, now you've got a title fight with Cole Konrad coming up. You've spent a lot of time with Deathclutch and those guys. Are you not going to be able to go up and train with them because Cole trains there too?

Eric Prindle: Well, basically Cole trains with Greg Nelson and Marty Morgan at DeathClutch Gym in Minnesota and Minnesota Martial Arts. These days, I train with Eric Paulson at CSW in Fullerton, California and that's where I do most of my training. Once I get a date for my fight, I'll be going over there to train during the week and I'll come back home on the weekends.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): On Twitter, you were talking with Brendan Schaub and Shane Carwin saying you'd like to train with them. Now if the possibility to do that opens up, would you do that in preparation for this fight or is that more of a "down the road" kind of thing.

Eric Prindle: I definitely would if they were serious about having me out, I would definitely go out there and train with them. I wanna be loyal to Eric Paulson and the guys that are helping me out now, so as long as everyone is copasetic with me going out there, I'd love to go up there. For one, Brandon Schaub and Shane Carwin are awesome fighters from what I know so it would be nice to train with some other guys and get another look.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much time have you actually spent training with Cole and do you think that's something that could help you or him in this fight?

Eric Prindle: I trained with Brock Lesnar, we all trained for quite a while, like three or four camps whenever Brock fought or whatever. Anyways, we trained non-stop three months at a time, 2-3 months and I definitely think it helps both of us out. We definitely learned a little bit about each other. I know he's a great champion and one hell of a great guy. I know him personally, we could say we're friends. I would do anything for him and I'm sure he would do anything for me. I'm going to go in there and try to have the best fight possible for the fans, for Bellator and for ourselves.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Cole showcased his improved stand-up in his last fight with Paul Buentello. What did you think of his improved striking skills?

Eric Prindle: I actually haven't seen it but I know Cole is one hell of an athlete. He tends to get really good at whatever he tries so I know he'll be prepared so I'll have to be the best MMA fighter that I possibly can to beat him so I'm basically just going to school every day trying to learn everything I can and getting into the best possible shape I can and come prepared to fight and win.

Eric would like to thank his gyms, Eric Paulson at CSW Fight Ready Gym, Busted Knuckle Boxing, World Class Fighting, Scrap Iron Gym in Prescott, Arizona, his sponsors: Subway, Born to Bleed, Power Blocks, The Burn Machine and a special thank you to all his training partners and coaches. You can follow him on Twitter @EricPrindleMMA.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Are you one of Prindle's naysayers? Do any of you think he has a shot against Cole Konrad when he fights for the Bellator heavyweight title?

Sound off!

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