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It's cliche and hackneyed because it's overused. Alas, it's also still true: a fighter often learns more from a loss than a win. A loss, when the lessons are properly absorbed, forces the fighter to check the premises of their strategy, re-evaluate training methods and foments the sort of soul searching that is significantly harder to produce in the throes of post-win jubilation.
Brett Rogers understands this cold reality better than most. After storming through his professional mixed martial arts opposition with ease, including a stunning 22-second knockout win in the first round over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, Rogers was never forced to mentally treat his occupation as a dedicated profession.
Then came his fight with Fedor Emelianenko. While giving the Russian all he handle for long portion of the fight, he was ultimately knocked out in stunning fashion in the second round. That fight was followed by a bout against current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem, a match where he was - quite literally - ragdolled around the cage and thunderously punched into a referee stoppage in the first round.
Both fights were alarming losses to Rogers, who had never tasted professional defeat before them. But the most acute wake-up call was actually a win. To stay active after the loss to Overeem, Rogers faced shopworn journeyman Ruben Villareal on a smaller show in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While he won, he gassed in an ugly fight that went the distance against an opponent that was there to be defeated.
Rogers matured seemingly in an instant after that bout. He eschewed the poisonous attitude that fighting was an activity where he could be successful without due diligence or discipline. He's since cleaned up his diet, recalibrated his attitude, and taken the enterprise of fight sport as seriously as elite-level success demands.
He'll have a chance to prove the changes are real this weekend as he takes on Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. In this exclusive interview on MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, Rogers talks about maturing, how the losses and win against Villareal affected him and why he believes he's the dark horse in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Full audio and transcription below:
Luke Thomas: Joining us now on the McDonalds hotline, he takes on the "Babyfaced Assassin" Josh Barnett this weekend at Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum live on Showtime at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, the one and only Brett "the Grimm" Rogers is on the show, Brett how are you sir?
Brett Rogers: I'm feeling good man, I'm ready to go.
Luke Thomas: You sound motivated. We haven't heard from you in a while and now you step back up and you seem very excited. Is it the opportunity? Is it the chance to fight a big name opponent? Why so much enthusiasm?
Brett Rogers: It's a little bit of both man. My last few fights with Strikeforce didn't go as planned and then I stepped out of the country and that didn't go as planned. So I just had to sit myself down and analyze what is going on overall. And what was going on was a big man from the normal working life trying to make something happen. I had to chance the script and understand that I'm now a pro-MMA fighter. It's not amateur time. I can't have an amateur attitude and I can't always say "f**k the world and f**k all my opponents", you understand? I have to sit down and analyze a little bit more and that's why I'm feeling great man. I mean Josh Barnett, he's a well known fighter. He's been around fighting for sometime, I've watched his fights back in the day, growing up, as a fan. It's gonna be one of those nights where it should be a fun night.
Luke Thomas: You mentioned stepping outside of Strikeforce. Folks that don't know, you won a bunch of fights in EliteXC and in Strikeforce. You beat Abongo Humphry, you beat Andrei Arlovski in record fashion. You drop two to some great fighters: Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem. Then your last fight was against "Warpath" Ruben Villareal (SP?) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Couple questions about that. Why did you take that fight? And you said it didn't go as planned, even though you won, what do you mean by it didn't go as planned?
Brett Rogers: I took the fight because I wanted to stay busy and I figured that being there was that "open door" policy, I just wanted to keep moving. Sometimes when you expected to fight and you don't, I kind of expected it in a sense. But at the same time, it wasn't a fight...I didn't train as hard as I could have trained because I felt like, I don't want to knock Ruben, but I felt like I was taking a step back so I didn't take it serious. My plan was to just go out there and kill him in the first round. I thought I killed him in the first round once he hit the ground after a leg strike and I proceeded with some ground and pound and I thought the fight was over. Now see that's going back to what I was saying early on, I can't think like that amateur-pro no more, I gotta keep going until the referee stops. That's what I plan on doing man. I plan on going in there and just being a whole lot smarter and not rush and be patient.
Luke Thomas: It sounds like your successes and your failures have matured you as a person and as a fighter. Would you agree that that's a fair characterization?
Brett Rogers: That's definitely a fair characterization cause that's exactly what's going on. I used to be where all you had to say was "Brett, you have a fight coming up" and that was all I wanted to know. Just make sure the money was right. I gotta tone it down. I gotta look at all areas of MMA, business and the fighting.
Luke Thomas: So one of the story lines surrounding this fight is a couple things and we'll get to your fight with Josh Barnett specifically in just a moment. But one thing is, your famous saying now is "healthy is wealthy" mean if you eat well and you take care of your body obviously it will pay dividends in your career. I guess I'm curious, talk to me about what you were eating on a typical day...walk me through a meal on a typical day before your fights with Overeem or before your fights with Fedor, just how unhealthy was it?
Brett Rogers: I would eat whatever cause the way I was thinking was as long as I make the weight and get through 15 minutes, get through half an hour, that's all that matters. Because everybody that already knew me knew I was settled in life, I didn't have to impress anyone, I'm already married, so I'm not out there with no six pack. I'm a father, I was only going to impress by my actions inside the cage but that only goes so far. You can't have that pre-fight mentality because down the line somebody will put you in your place and I definitely felt that in the last two losses. So I know that healthy is going to make for a little bit more wealthy and we'll see that the proof is in the pudding this weekend too. I plan on saying healthy the whole time.
Luke Thomas: Walk me through what you're eating today. What'd you eat today?
Brett Rogers: Today? Steaks, chicken burrito and I just ate the steak, chicken, vegetables, and rice. See what I'm saying? I stay away from certain things. I calmed down on the salt. I calmed down on the sugars, cause I'm a soul food eater man, I'm all real when it comes to that but I know that just like any other professional that comes form a soul food background, you gotta tone it down. There's a buncha salt and there's a buncha sugars, so I had to tone it down.
Luke Thomas: So how do you feel physically? Emotionally and mentally it seems like you're really excited for the opportunity and that makes sense. Physically though, the training, is it is it easier to do things than they were previously? Can you really notice what treating food like fuel does for you?
Brett Rogers: I definitely feel faster and that's the number one thing, I feel like I can keep going and I feel faster. That's the best way to put it. The times when I felt tired at practice, I don't feel as exhausted, so that's definitely the thing that stands out to me. Hopefully with the more muscle I build the more energy I have. I'm just gonna be patient with it, I'm not rushing it. I'm not expecting to look all "fit", I just want to be fine and defined. Just get in and kill when need be.
Luke Thomas: Before we get to your fight with Josh Barnett, a couple more questions. There's a lot of controversy surrounding the last two guys you fought in Strikeforce, Overeem and Fedor. First, about Fedor. I'm sure you saw his fight, you were there, against Antonio Silva, do you believe he's losing because he's past his prime? Is he losing because he doesn't care about fighting anymore? Or was it that Silva was just too big? You came close, you had some moments where you really stuck it to Fedor. Why do you think he lost that fight?
Brett Rogers: I really can't answer why he lost the fight, I just understand that there was a very large man standing across from him that has wanted to put his hands on him for quite some time and being that he has had injuries, even from me. I'm pretty sure that I affected his mind a little bit and then he had that fight with Fabricio, that affected his mind a little bit. See where I'm going? The mind just wasn't all the way there I'm sure. As far as wanting to retire early, I'm pretty sure it's nothing at that point, he just has to wake up and ask himself "do I or do I not?" and I'm pretty sure that's what he's doing right now. Do I still want to fight or do I not want to fight? As soon as he comes to that conclusion then we'll see him again. Hopefully I get another chance and it is what it is. I'm not gonna fight to get that fight because I felt I had it in the bag and I'm pretty sure that most of the people will agree.
Luke Thomas: And Overeem, where would you rank him among top MMA heavyweights?
Brett Rogers: I would definitely put him in the top 10. I'll say I'd probably put him in the top 5 because he's a high ranked opponent. The man's been all over the place. He's fought tough opponents. He's just an eating, dreaming fighter. So when it comes down to it, he's not going anywhere anytime soon. He's still trying to fight the best and be the best. He's one of those guys too, as I mature on this little break away from him, I hope he sees my changes as a fighter and as a MMA fighter. I have the fight experience no matter what but in MMA, you have to make adjustments and I'm definitely making adjustments as we speak right now and I hope he sees that. So when the time comes when we fight and I'm pretty sure it's gonna happen, Strikeforce in the same weight class, it's gonna happen. And who knows? We'll see.
Luke Thomas: You talk about mental issues and I think that's a good point, particularly how it applies to your opponent. Josh Barnett, one of the most storied careers among MMA Heavyweights, he's fought some good guys, not some great guys. He's had a lot of issues with licensing here in the states, particularly in California. Do you believe that he is the same Josh Barnett that we saw just crushing people in his UFC run? Is he the same level or talent or do you think that he may be dealing with some issues as well?
Brett Rogers: You know what? I'm pretty sure that's he's dealing with a whole buncha mental problems too. Not mental problems, mental situations in that people are always constantly in his early saying that "how do you feel about the media saying this?" or "how do you feel about that?" cause I'm pretty sure that he's getting hated on because of his past problems with steroid use. I don't know, I think he's gonna come out here with an aggressive mindset and I'm just trying to take him outta his game.
Luke Thomas: Best case scenario, after this fight, what will people be saying about Brett Rogers?
Brett Rogers: "Aw he's the sh*t, don't f**k with him." That's what I'm hoping for.
Luke Thomas: How would you characterize your placement in this tournament? Are you the dark horse? Where do you fall in the pack?
Brett Rogers: I'd definitely say I'm the dark horse among the white horses. I feel that it's possible that I could take the tournament. But I'm thinking that everyone else is thinking that way too. I'm never going to doubt myself, every fight that I've had I've always thought that I could win that fight. There's never been a situation where I thought I couldn't win and I don't see too many people that I really need to sit back and think "hmmm...I don't think I should mess with this guy right now". So as long as I get 2-3 months notice, I'll focus on them and then it is what it is, we'll see what the outcome is come fight night.
Luke Thomas: You're facing Josh Barnett this Saturday on Showtime, do us the honor sir, who do you like in the other tournament that night: Fabricio Werdum vs Alistair Overeem. Who do you like in that one?
Brett Rogers: Man, I say best to the both. I ain't choosing no life raft cause I want to see them. I'm not trying to be like I want Fabricio or I want Alistair, when it comes down to it they're gonna wanna see me win or lose too so I'm gonna keep that to myself and say best to the both and we'll see.
Luke Thomas: Brett Rogers, thanks for being on MMA Nation and best of luck to you.