When BJPenn.com caught up with Brett “Da Grim” Rogers this week, the Bellator heavyweight wanted to make one thing abundantly clear: Brett Rogers is back, and he’s “not to be f-cked with.”
Yes, a conversation with Rogers may be littered with F bombs and double negatives, but it’s also refreshingly candid and lacking in pretense. The heavyweight spoke to me about his meteoric rise in the world of MMA, his string of losses to some of the sport’s elite, and how he’s grown since the 2011 domestic altercation with his wife that nearly cost him his career.
What became clear during the course of our conversation, however, is that none of these things define Rogers. Instead, I spoke to a man who realizes just how fortunate he is to be back in a major MMA promotion and who now approaches his career — not to mention his personal life — with a newfound maturity and sense of purpose.
On Alexander Volkov:
Rogers (12-4-1) fights Friday in the Bellator 75 heavyweight tournament quarterfinals against 6’7” Russian striker and BJJ tactician Alexander Volkov (16-3), who is riding a seven fight win streak. I asked Rogers what the fans could expect to see.
“I’m gonna try real hard this weekend to give Alexander [all he can handle]. I need to prove that I’m not just here to win a few fights, I’m in here to win well into the future, the far future. I’m 31 years old. I could fight until I’m 40, you know? It’s not that I want to fight that long … I just want to be known as that guy who is not to be f-cked with by any man.”
Rogers made clear that he sees his current run in Bellator as a second chance.
“I had a whole lot going on in my life before I entered Bellator. [I had been] going through a whole bunch of hellish situations. But now I’m a whole lot smarter, a whole lot calmer. I feel blessed, man. This is not my last time, but it’s definitely my second chance to redeem myself.”
I asked Rogers if he would go so far as to guarantee a victory this weekend against Volkov.
“Like I said, I feel comfortable. I’ve been working with guys [like former Bellator] Heavyweight Champion Cole Konrad. I was traveling with him day in and day out. Bigfoot [Silva], he’s about to fight this weekend as well, in the UFC. I’ve been training with him day in and day out, in the stand up department and on the ground. So I feel comfortable.
“This guy [Volkov] is coming in, 6’7” or 6’8”. He looks like a basketball player. I mean, he’s a kickboxer? I can kick! I can punch! I’m gonna turn the heat up on him, man. He needs to get his pushups in, because he’s gonna have to push my weight off of him in order to make anything happen. He just looks like the typical Muay Thai kickboxer type of guy. A taller, Muay Thai guy — that’s what he looks like to me. I’ll put him to the test. I’m ready to get this fight over with. Then it will be on to the next one.”
While Volkov has nearly 20 fights to his resume, he’s only been in the sport for three years, and all his fights have taken place in Russia or the Ukraine. When Rogers took his first MMA fight in 2005, Volkov was only 16. Rogers says his experience will trump Volkov’s youth this weekend.
“I look at experience now kind of overall. But how experienced is this guy, really? He’s 16 and something? I’ll cut that in half. He’s 8-0. He may look at my like I’m next, but I know my experience and the type of fighters I’ve fought. I’ve fought guys with a lot more experience than he has.
“I’m just gonna be smart. I’m not going out there with my head cut off, just hoping for the best. I’m gonna go out there and capitalize when I can, because I need to fight next month.”
I asked Rogers what he thought of Volkov’s strengths and weaknesses, and if he was at all worried about the striker’s BJJ skills.
“I’m not worried about none of that. I’m just gonna go out there and be me. From what I see off the clips on the Internet, it doesn’t look like he’s no black belt. It doesn’t even look like he’s a purple belt. This guy, he’s 6’7” or 6’8”, something like that, and 220 or 230 lbs. I’m gonna be walking in there at 265 lbs., and he’s gonna feel my heaviness. That’s what I want. I want him to get tired, and if anything, I want him to get tired off of feeling my weight.
“I’m a true heavyweight; he’s a light heavyweight at most. He’s too tall and skinny. I don’t believe he’s fought anyone like me before. I hope he understands that he’s a dangerous fighter to a different fighter, [not me.]”
It’s rare for Rogers, who stands 6’4”, to be markedly shorter than his opponent. Rogers said he was unconcerned with Volkov’s height advantage.
“That’s gonna be a negative for him, because he’s lanky and I’m short. My center is gonna control him. He has to come down to me; I just need to approach him.”
Volkov is known to train with MMA star Fedor Emelianenko, whom Rogers fought and lost to in 2009. I asked Rogers if having Emelianenko as a training partner would benefit Volkov.
“It may. It may help him because me and Fedor have fought. But even when me and Fedor fought, there was only so much shit that happened in the fight. All you’re gonna say is ‘You might need to watch out for this. You might need to watch out for that.’
“The only way I can see him winning is by catching a lucky submission or a lucky punch. I can’t see him beating me up. I can’t see him outdoing me. So I’m going to take advantage of whatever he gives me.”
On Working with American Top Team:
Rogers credits his management and his own work with Florida’s American Top Team as helping him get his career back on track.
“Instead of a gameplan team, I have a life team. I’ve got my man, [manager] Gerald Millen. I’ve got a good team, American Top Team down in Florida. I’ve got a bunch of coaches — Coach Liborio, Coach Conan [Marcus Silveira] — and training partners showing me different techniques, different struggle points and how to get out of them.
“I’m just really working my MMA game, know what I mean? I’ve got a great group backing me, and they’re not telling me ‘Yeah, yeah, do this!’ and just hyping me up. It’s ‘Let’s sit down and talk about this for one second. Do we really want to do this right now?’ And I’ve calmed down and am maturing. I’m maturing as a fighter and just all around.”
On the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament and His Status in the Company:
Rogers said he sees this fight and the larger heavyweight tournament as an opportunity to eventually hold the Bellator Heavyweight Championship.
“I’m definitely seeing this as my first step through the tournament and toward a title shot. The way I see it, whoever wins the tournament might just be the heavyweight champion, because Cole Konrad has retired. There’s not a lot of real talk going on about it, but it sounds to me like [the winner of the heavyweight tournament may win the title]. So all of us are working harder to try to capitalize on winning this tournament.
“Where I’m at now, in Bellator, I feel that I can definitely be the heavyweight champ, and I’m gonna strive for it. I want to be known as the Bellator heavyweight champ sooner rather than later. I want the other fighters to know that I’m busting my ass just as well as they are nowadays. I’m stepping it up with ATT, and that’s gonna be my home place until something else happens.”
I asked Rogers if he would be cut by Bellator for a loss this weekend.
“If I lost this weekend, I don’t feel I would be cut. As long as I go out there and put on a great show, I think they’ll be happy. Now if I go out there and half ass it, shit, anything could happen. But I don’t see that happening. I see me finishing this guy off in the first round. Then on to the next.”
On His Falling Out with, and Subsequent Fight Against, Kevin Asplund:
Rogers only made it into the tournament after his Bellator 71 victory over friend-turned-enemy Kevin Asplund, whose wife Rogers said burned down a part of his Minneapolis-area home. I asked Rogers how his win over Asplund felt, and if that victory was a statement fight for him.
“Oh yeah. That fight right there, it stands out because, you know, we were buddies. I don’t invite everybody over to my house. Everybody’s not welcome. And he was welcome. The wife was having a ladies night over here, and my porch got scorched … from a cigarette butt. And this lady [Asplund’s wife, who had been smoking] she should’ve known better. Put your butt completely out, then go on your way. And so my porch, and a nice part of the side of my house, were scorched. We kept trying to whisper in their ear like ‘Hey, are y’all gonna try to help take care of this?’
“I wish right now I could get on the phone with Alexander [Volkov] and try to figure him out, pick ideas off of him. That would be personal. And that’s the type of fight I like, when there is some emotion behind it.
“But he [Asplund] f-cked up with me. He knew I was gonna go out there, and he chose to sign the paper. He didn’t have to fight me. He could’ve been like ‘Look, I know my guy and he mad. I ain’t about to fight him.’ And he was asking for more money. Whatever.”
Rogers said he and Asplund remain at odds with one another.
“As of right now, it’s basically sitting on the ‘whatever’ side. We’re not talking; we’re not communicating. I don’t see him and he don’t see us. And that’s fine with me, because my family was in the house that night. If my daughter didn’t wake up my wife, who knows how it would’ve been.
“It was just wild for me, because it was our first home. Out in the suburbs, too! So that just really hurt me, you know? They wouldn’t call back and be like ‘How can I help you out?’ I didn’t get none of that. It was just avoidance.
“It probably still would’ve been avoided if I didn’t call him out in the organization. He thought I wasn’t gonna make it, that Bellator wasn’t gonna pick me up because of the situation. But they did, and everything went down. And everybody knows what happened.”
…Rogers fought Asplund very early on the Bellator 71 card, though he’s currently slated to be the co-main event at Bellator 75. I asked him if he saw his lower position on the former card as insulting, or if he took motivation from it.
“Well, I know what’s going on. If I would’ve lost [the Asplund fight], we wouldn’t even be talking. You see where I’m going with that? So I already knew that I had to win the fight. I had to win that fight. That was a have-to-win.
“He was more terrified about being the first bout on the show. But I was more like ‘OK, I already know where I’m at. Now I just need to whoop your ass real quick.’ That’s where my mind was the whole time: I am not losing this fight, because I’ve been talking too much shit, and I’m not about to eat these words.”
On What He’s Learned from His Legal and Domestic Troubles:
Rogers’ 2011 domestic dispute with his wife not only cost him his Strikeforce job, but also landed him in jail for two months. I asked him what he focused on during his 60 days of incarceration.
“My focus was just on trying to stay out of trouble, especially given my situation. [People were saying] ‘You motherf-cker, how can you put your hands on a woman?’ So I was just trying to focus on staying calm and cool, and keeping myself out of trouble.
“Plus, I was keeping up with my family and letting them know how sorry I was and that it was gonna be a lot different when I got out. That was my word, and I’ve been sticking to my word, and it’s gonna be like that for the rest of life. You will never, ever catch a story like that about me again, or any craziness like that.”
In past interviews, Rogers had said he and his wife were going to church and to counseling. I asked him if he was still sticking to those, and what those outlets have taught him.
“Well, I’ve kind of slowed down on the counseling. But we have church, and church is kind of like a counseling session for us. I look at it now like … most people are trying to help you. I never thought, for many years, that I was gonna get to that point in life, but it happened. So maybe if I would’ve had someone around then telling me “It gets better. Shit will be like that, but calm down. This is how you calm down,” then it might not have happened. So I definitely recommend [church and counseling] to anybody out there who is losing themselves to anger.”
Rogers said his relationship with his wife and family is strong right now.
“It’s nothing but the best. It seems like [the setbacks] are making us stronger. We’re in a small suburb of Minneapolis, and our city knows us quite well now. They didn’t before. So we have to be stronger. We’re just keeping it real with one another, keeping our communication strong and showing our love.
“Nobody’s perfect. That’s the #1 thing I teach in my house. Nobody’s perfect, and you guys are gonna make mistakes. If you make a mistake, am I just supposed to kick you off the face of the Earth? Or am I going to keep you around and hope for the best? So we’re definitely working out, man. Things are great. It’s all love.”
On His Losses:
Rogers rose to prominence following his victory over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski in 2009, which left him with and undefeated 10-0 record. Rogers subsequently lost to Emelianenko in what was the first of four losses over his next five fights. I wanted to know if, in hindsight, the Emelianenko fight was too much too soon.
“No, I don’t feel like the Fedor fight was too much too soon. At that particular time, my training was decent — especially for him. I had the body, I had the facility, and I was ready. I was hungry. I’m pretty sure it was showing in that fight.
“The Alistair fight, I might’ve been going a little too fast. I probably should’ve settled down, slowed down a little bit. But you’ve got to get in there and do it until you figure it out.
“This is my second tour. At this time in my life, this is my second [opportunity]. I’m not gonna be falling for a whole lot of bullshit. I’m gonna take my time. I’m gonna do it right, because I want my name to stand out. Anybody who says they want to be top dog — I want that. I want my name in that mix too.”
Many feel as if Emelianenko has fallen off since he himself suffered a string of three consecutive losses, followed by some victories over less-heralded opponents. I asked Rogers if he would win a rematch against Emelianenko.
“Oh, I definitely feel I could take him in a rematch. I would do what I should’ve did, which is what Bigfoot [Silva] did. I would use my weight against him and take him down to the ground, and try to figure him out that way.
“But I got all respect for that guy, man. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. I get a lot of mail and people are talking about I ‘hate’ that guy. It never was no hate.”
I wanted to know what Rogers thought went wrong in his four losses.
“It was the training. I wasn’t training properly for those opponents. So that definitely stood out in the fights. If you go out there [in training] and half ass it, you’re gonna fight half ass. I know that now, not to be so cocky.
“Alexander this weekend, he’s gonna be ready. He’s a fighter. And anything can happen in a fight, especially with a stand-up puncher and considering all the other aspects of MMA. But I’m hungry around here. It’s been a while since I fought. So I’m gonna be fighting like a crazy hungry man.”
On Being ‘The Baddest: Not to be F-cked With’:
With the exception of Eddie Sanchez, Rogers’ defeats have come against elite names in the heavyweight division: Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. I asked Rogers how he saw himself currently as compared to the sport’s top heavyweights.
“Where would I rank myself? Man, I don’t even play off of the rankings anymore. I just fight. I don’t want to be known as #1, #2, #3 or #4. You know what I’m saying? I just want to be known in that list of ‘Do I really want to fight this guy?’
“I want fighters to hesitate and ask for more money every time they see my name come across that desk. That’s what I want. I want to be known as ‘The Baddest: Not to be F-cked With.’ That’s how I want to be known.”
On His Physique and Cardio:
I asked Rogers if his huskier physique, when compared to an athlete like Overeem, hurt his cardio or otherwise cost him in the cage.
“Nah, not necessarily man. Because when it comes down to cardio, I’d love to get my best in the mile and his best in the mile [and compare them]. I’d love to be side-by-side with one of those guys like Alistair, with his physique. People say he can go on forever. I can go on forever too! Your body type is just your body type. It’s your heart and your mind that’s gonna win the fight for you, not what you look like. So go on with it.”
On Calling Out Other Fighters:
Rogers once called out former Internet fighting sensation Kimbo Slice at an EliteXC event, telling Slice his fight with James Thompson was “garbage.” I asked Rogers if he was still in the business of calling people out, and if so, who was on his list these days.
“As of right now, I really don’t have nobody that I want to call out. My focus has been on winning this tournament; I really haven’t been focused on other bouts. But I’ll put my nose in everybody else’s business. I ain’t got no shame in calling nobody out, especially if they are talking about me, because they could be talking about somebody else. So people need to watch what they say.
“I think everybody appreciates when the fight is more real. You call somebody out to get their attention, and they start talking back with you, that’s what really captures the fans. I’m just gonna keep on rolling with it.”
On Possibly Fighting in the UFC One Day:
Rogers says he is loyal to Bellator right now, but I wanted to know if he ever saw himself fighting in the sport’s #1 promotion, the UFC.
“I want to win and fight the best competition. I’m fighting for Bellator, and I’ve made promises with Bellator. [Talking about fighting elsewhere right now would be] like me going against my family. I’m not gonna say ‘Forget my family, I’m going to go to another family.’ I feel comfortable [with Bellator] right now in everything, every aspect, and the sky’s the limit.
“If somebody from the UFC wants to fight me, they just need to put it out there on the record, put it out to the world, and me and Bellator will make it happen. That’s how it used to work at Strikeforce. Somebody would talk shit from a different branch and it was ‘Hey, let’s meet up in the middle.’ That’s where I’m going with that one. I want my house to stay as cool as possible.
“Bellator didn’t have to swoop me up. They could’ve been like everybody else: ‘Nah, I don’t want to deal with Rogers and all his B.S. He’s too hot right now, in a negative way.’ So I’m not about to f-ck them and be like ‘I wish I could fight for the UFC.’ The UFC’s gonna be there. They’re gonna be there. Bellator is gonna be there as well.
“So if anybody wants to fight me from the UFC, get a hold of Bjorn [Rebney, Bellator CEO] or get a hold of my management, and just let it be known. Because I am gonna talk about the fighters, no matter what. People already know that. I don’t even be caring. There’s certain people, you just want to fight them. And if the time is right, I’m gonna call them out. I’ll call them out on my time.
“Bellator is building its brand, man, definitely. This Alexander guy is brand new; he’s only two weeks in, fresh in Bellator. We’re definitely plucking out different guys from all over the place and building up the brand, just like UFC is doing.”
On a Possible Move to Professional Wrestling:
Moreso than the UFC, Rogers said he could see himself making a splash in the world of professional wrestling one day.
“Outside of the box, I’ve definitely got my eye on some pro wrestling too. Pro wrestling has always been something I’ve been interested in, and I’m getting to the point to where different friends of mine know different people, and I might make that happen too when I retire. I just want to stick that out there.
“I’m talking TNA, WWE, wherever. I just want to get my foot in the door of the world of wrestling. I don’t necessarily have to start out at WWE, because I see that as the top. But definitely, TNA, I could see something like that.
“[As fighters], we’re past the point of proving that we’re bad asses, because we’re already in the cage, but that ain’t no kind of retirement. And I’m not saying wrestling is soft, because I know them boys, once they get they asses in that ring, that’s some real deal stuff going on. You can’t fake those drops, and you can’t fake stuff getting tossed at your head. So that’s the real deal, and it’s definitely something I’d like to fall into. The kids would love it, because I talk about it so much. I’m trying to make everybody happy.”
On His Future in MMA and being the Bellator ‘King’:
Finally, I wanted to know if Rogers saw himself as undergoing a career resurgence right now, and what fans could expect from him in the future.
“I feel like a lot of good things lie ahead of me. I just have to take everything day by day, step by step. Don’t rush anything.
“I already see where it’s going with the tournament. I already see that the tournament could lead to the title. And you already know how that is. The title holder is pretty much the king. That’s when I can start calling people out and say ‘OK, I wanna beat this person real quick.’”
Only time will tell whether or not Rogers will become Bellator’s heavyweight king. He has the opportunity to take a huge step toward that goal Friday night.Bellator, brett rogers, featured, MMA NEWS, Strikeforce, strikeforce news, ufc, ufc news