Despite being one of the most explosive and exciting fighters on the Bellator roster, Brian Rogers was at a crossroads following his second consecutive defeat in the Bellator middleweight tournament semifinals.
"The Predator" decided to take the leap. Despite loving his job teaching special needs children, he only had a brief window for becoming a successful mixed martial artist and he was going to need all the time he could possibly use to improve himself to get to that next level.
Rogers has spent the last few weeks bouncing around from his Strong Style Gym in Ohio, to Brian Stann's gym in Georgia to even Tri-Star gym in Montreal, working alongside some of the most talented fighters in the sport.
He's hoping his sacrifices and hard work pays off on Friday night (Oct. 26, 2012) when he battles Vision MMA fighter Dominique Steele on the main card of Bellator 78 in Dayton, Ohio.
Rogers spoke to MMAmania.com about the switch to becoming a full-time fighter, the positive results he's seen thus far and what he hopes to accomplish on Friday night in this exclusive interview.
Check it out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about the big changes you've made since the last time we saw you. I remember when you said you didn't think you'd ever put the teaching job on the side and go full time as a mixed martial artist. What was the big shift for you that made you want to take the leap?
Brian Rogers: It was just the realization that at this level, you need to develop 100 percent of your time and effort into being the best. You have a limited window of opportunity and time to compete and I just decided that it was time to go for it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you seen any noticeable positive improvements to your game since you decided to go full-time? Most fighters I've talked to who switch it up like that feel like everything gets ramped up a notch.
Brian Rogers: Yeah, I felt like my nutrition has been a lot better. I've also hired a nutritionist so I actually have time to eat correctly and plan my meals accordingly. I'm not squeezing everything into one training session at night anymore. I get to work on the gameplan, my technique, improve my skill, spar more and especially work on conditioning. Now that I have more time and the ability to train 2-3 times a day, I can space myself out appropriately and hopefully it will show in my performance. It's already shown in my conditioning and my physique for the camp.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I really think it's a great thing that you've done with the "Fund-A-Fighter" campaign which will help your old school. Who ended up winning that?
Brian Rogers: The leading guy was from RSGC Commercially, and there was no real "winning" per se, it was just whoever donated the highest amount of money had the opportunity to walk out with me. He's gonna be out of town so I think what we're doing right now is out of the people who donate at least $20 for the rest of the week, we'll hold a raffle and they'll get to walk out behind me when I go to the cage.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I read that you switched things up a bit. You still train at Strong Style in Ohio but you also spent a few weeks at Tri-Star Gym in Montreal. Is that something you'd done before or was that new?
Brian Rogers: It was the first time I'd been there. I also went to train with Brian Stann for a bit at the end of August. I was home for a couple days and went to Tri-Star for about three weeks. I don't think all the camps in the world are as good as the media or themselves are trying to hype them up to be as far as quality of product and good fighters, but I went up there and had a great time and really enjoyed my experience. It's definitely something I would plan on doing again in the future.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it just good sometimes to just mix it up a bit like that?
Brian Rogers: You find yourself in a major competition in practice and you're just learning a lot and getting new looks. I think definitely, definitely it's a good thing to push yourself in different directions.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You talked about fighting smarter. You've normally got this hard-nosed aggressive style that results in these first round knockouts which has gained you a lot of fans, but you've mentioned making smarter decisions in the cage. Can you elaborate on that?
Brian Rogers: Well, I never tried for a first round knockout. Whatever I do, as long as I did it correctly, those things just tended to happen. Yeah, I have an aggressive style but overall, I've wanted to be a more well-rounded mixed martial artist and be able to win either in the first round or on the judges' scorecards if need be.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did this come from your last fight, where you felt there were holes in Andreas Spang's game particularly on the ground that you weren't able to take advantage of?
Brian Rogers: Yeah, definitely. Looking back, I still think I could have beat him on the feet striking but if that wasn't working, I could have changed my plan of attack and gone a different route to win the fight that way.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are you expecting from your upcoming opponent Dominique Steele, a fellow Ohio fighter out of Vision MMA, on Friday night?
Brian Rogers: He's a tough athletic brawler. He's got good wrestling, good scrambles and a pretty good right hand. I think he's gonna be pretty athletic, try to come forward and take my head off or double leg me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like you have to have a good performance against him to set the tone for a middleweight tournament fight in 2013 on Spike?
Brian Rogers: Yeah, definitely. I kind of look at this fight like it's the first round of the tournament. Yeah, I'll get a longer break in between, but I've got to win this one to put myself in the position to get in the 2013 Spike tournament. For me, this is the first round.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Once your mixed martial arts career is up, would you still plan on going back to the special education job?
Brian Rogers: That's a possibility. If I could find work in mixed martial arts or the entertainment side, that would be good too. But as far as "other jobs" that's what I would do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you conflicted at all heading into this fight at all, trying to balance the really aggressive Brian Rogers of the past and this new and improved "smarter" full-time fighter?
Brian Rogers: There's a time and a place for everything. I just feel like I'm more in tune with my body and my abilities and I know I have to execute at the right times and not just step on the gas too much when I should ride it out. I just have to fight smart but at the same time, if somebody's rocked, I still have to go in for the kill. I just have to remember to pull up short if that's not going to happen.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If everything plays out perfectly with the way you're gameplanning this fight, how would you like it to play out on Friday night?
Brian Rogers: I'd like a finish sometime or I'd at least like to win every single round 10-8. I just want to have a good performance. I don't care either way how it goes. I would love to win either a unanimous decision with the 10-8 rounds or a finish. I've submitted someone before, but it would be a tremendous sense of accomplishment to finish via submission but it would also be the same sense of accomplishment to finish via knockout. I'm good with whatever, however it plays out as long as I get my hand raised.