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Know your Bellator: MMAmania interview exclusive with middleweight Brian Rogers

If you sat down and made a list of jobs a mixed martial arts fighter would likely have on the side, special needs education would probably not be in the top five. Hell, it's probably not in the top five hundred.

But Brian "The Predator" Rogers isn't your typical fighter. By day, he's trying to make breakthroughs with kids. By night, he's training to knock another man senseless in the cage.

All that hard work has seemingly begun to pay off as Rogers enters Bellator riding a six fight win streak with all six finishes coming by way of first round knockout.

Rogers is slated to square off against fellow Ohio fighter and tough submission artist Victor O'Donnell in the quarterfinals of the season five middleweight tournament this Saturday night (September 17, 2011) for Bellator 50 in Hollywood, Florida.

The Strong Style Fight Team fighter spoke with about his opponent, his knockout ability and how he's able to balance two demanding careers.

Brian Hemminger ( You've built up a lot of momentum lately, what was the reasoning behind your decision to sign with Bellator? 

Brian Rogers: I got the offer for Bellator a little bit after my Strikeforce undercard fight this past March. It was about the same time that the UFC had purchased Strikeforce so things were kind of up in the air with that and I didn't want to get lost in the shuffle and regret taking an opportunity that was right in front of me. It wasn't an opportunity I could turn down.

Brian Hemminger ( You've got some teammates competing in Bellator, more notably Chris Lozano who just fought in the last tournament and won his fight last Saturday. Did you take anything from his experience to help you?

Brian Rogers: Yeah man, we train together nearly every single day. He told me that when you're at the fight, just fight and don't overthink it. Just do what you normally do and not let the pressure get to you when the situation comes. Just go fight and perform like always.

Brian Hemminger ( Well if you just perform like always, you'd have to be expecting a first round knockout. You've been absolutely obliterating everyone you've fought in the last two years with a six-fight first round knockout streak. Are you going to have that in the back of your head, trying to keep that streak alive going into this tournament?

Brian Rogers: Yeah, it would be ideal. You'll gain much more notoriety and attention with a big first round knockout which is good so that's definitely what I want. Regardless though, I just want to get the win however I can get it.

Brian Hemminger ( Can you talk about the mentality of trying to get that first round finish? I've watched all your knockouts and you just go for the kill non-stop.

Brian Rogers: I feel I can throw hard and under control. I've got a lot of power. I feel like any one of my big strikes can put a guy out. I think if people are really fighting, it should be really difficult to go to a decision if somebody's really giving it their all. I've been on the wrong side of two decisions and I was trying to finish the guy the whole time but apparently it would have been better for me to take those guys down and lay on them. In my mind, it's a fight and you finish a fight. Don't let the crowd or the judges decide who the winner is. 

Brian Hemminger ( Your first round opponent is Victor O'Donnell. He's a fellow Ohioan. What are your thoughts on the guy?

Brian Rogers: Well I've seen him around, he fought one of my teammates Forrest Petz a few years ago and he's a tough submission guy. He's got eight submission wins total and he's fought some good names. His record speaks for itself. He's never been finished and nearly every one of his wins has been by stoppage so I know he's a really strong opponent.

Brian Hemminger ( Is there any motivation to avenge your teammate because I know he defeated Forrest Petz?

Brian Rogers: Yeah, I want to get the win for myself and it would be nice to get it for Forrest too. Cleveland has a bit of a rivalry with Cincinnati, Team Vision versus Strong Style and it would be really nice to get that win on the pretty big stage.

Brian Hemminger ( The last time I talked to you I believe you mentioned you were a three stripe white belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. How confident are you if this fight with O'Donnell goes to the ground?

Brian Rogers: I feel fine. I only put on a gi once a month to be honest but I've been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu for over five years. When you're training MMA and having a difficult enough time balancing being a full-time fighter with teaching, I just don't have the time to train in a gi and advance my belt rank. I train with a lot of solid jiu-jitsu guys though.

There are a lot of good grapplers out there like Jeremy Horn who said he's never trained with a gi in his life and Josh Barnett who's more of a catch wrestler. My head trainer, Marcus Marinelli is more of a shoot-style fighter and he's helped me a lot. My head jiu-jitsu instructor is Pablo Castro, who's a brown belt under Rodrigo Comprido, Brock Lesnar's jiu-jitsu coach, so I'm not too worried.

Brian Hemminger ( I know before this fight, you called out Alexander Shlemenko. You wanted him in the first round. Was there anything specific about Shlemenko that just made you want to fight him?

Brian Rogers: It's someone that I'd have to fight eventually if I keep advancing. He's a tough guy and someone might say they wouldn't want to face him until the later rounds of the tournament but that also means you get less time to prepare for him in training camp. I just wanted to face him and get that win to put myself on the map, a win over a past tournament champion. I'm just looking to get my name out there.

Brian Hemminger ( I'd like to talk about where you train. Strong Style Fight Team has really been making their mark lately with some fighters getting some big opportunities.

Brian Rogers: I think we're the best kept secret around. We've got some ex-UFC guys like Forrest Petz and Jeff Cox training alongside some terrific young fighters like Stipe Miocic who just earned his UFC debut and he's finished everyone he's ever fought. He's a terrific prospect. Jessica Eye is one of the best female fighters in the world at 125 pounds and Chris Lozano is doing huge things in Bellator at welterweight. We have a ton of other guys making noise and they give us work every day in practice to make us better and they just haven't had the opportunity to break through. We've got incredible coaches too, Marcus Marinelli and Pablo Castro. We're a legit gym.

Brian Hemminger ( You have a very interesting occupation on the side of being an MMA fighter. Can you talk about your job and how you came into it?

Brian Rogers: I work in Kenton, Ohio for the LEAP alternative education program for kids with special needs alongside a fellow fighter Joe Heiland. I'm an assistant teacher there. It's an awesome, fulfilling and rewarding job. In college, I started out as a physical education major and I switched over to special education because I just wanted to get more out of it and wanted to continue to help and work with people. I kind of got away from that when I was working at Akron University as the strength and conditioning coach and doing personal training but then the opportunity arose to be an assistant teacher in the classroom and I jumped at it.

Brian Hemminger ( That's a pretty demanding position. Can you talk about how you balance being a fighter and a teacher and does the staff at your school support you?

Brian Rogers: I can't really train twice a day now that school's started but the school has been very cooperative with my schedule. My co-workers come to all my fights, both my bosses were there at one of my last ones and they're really supportive of me. I get days off when I have to travel. I just try to get to bed at a decent time because I have to get up really early to be at work by 7:45. I get out of work by about 2:00 p.m. and I'm usually in the gym around 5:00 p.m. and I'm out by 9-10. It's a cycle I've gotten used to over the years.  

Brian Hemminger ( Fascinating, okay last question. How do you see this fight playing out on Saturday night?

Brian Rogers: I'm pretty sure Victor will stand for a little bit but ultimately he'll look for the double leg takedown and go for the submission. I'll have to be ready to 'sprawl and brawl' for up to three rounds and hopefully I can clip him early and be done with it. 

Brian would like to thank Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness Center in Independence, Ohio, Intimidation Clothing, John P. Lennon, Defiance Tattoos, Muscle Basic Supplements, Pros Auto Body and Jose's Landing.

So what do you think Maniacs?

Will Rogers continue that impressive first round knockout streak this Saturday night? Does this guy have what it takes to be a champion?

Sound off!

Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator middleweight introductory series:

Bryan Baker
Jared Hess
Vitor Vianna

More info on Brian Rogers:

Wikipedia page
Knockout highlight on Inside MMA