Brett Rogers: I'm in This to Hurt, to Smash, to Win

Ten months ago, Brett "The Grim" Rogers was riding high. He had just knocked out another opponent to improve to 8-0 in his mixed martial arts career, a win that carried special significance because it was the first MMA fight ever carried live on network television.

But it hasn't been easy for Rogers since then. His promotion, EliteXC, folded, leaving him without a job. He went from being a professional athlete fighting in front of millions to working at Sam's Club, and he wondered if his MMA career would ever resume.

On Saturday it finally will, as Rogers will fight Ron "Abongo" Humphrey for Strikeforce on Showtime. I interviewed Rogers this week about his time off, his thoughts on the fight and his future plans. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: You won the first MMA fight ever to be carried live on network TV. How significant do you think that is?
Brett Rogers: First and foremost, it was the most nervous I ever was in my life. While I was waiting around for the undercard to get over, I was so nervous. But I thought of it as an opportunity to go out there and put on a show, and that's what I did.

At the same time, that fight was in May of 2008. If I had told you then that you weren't going to fight again until April of 2009, I imagine you would have been disappointed.
Yeah, I would have been pretty disappointed. It's been a long time. It's been tough, but I knew this wasn't something I could give up on. It's something I love to do. Fighting is fun, and I'm working hard on being more than just a fighter, developing all my MMA skills. I think I'll show that this weekend.

You're a big puncher, and you've used punches to win every fight. Do you also have a ground game?
Yes. Most of the time I was off I was working on my jiu jitsu. In fact, I kind of put the stand-up game behind me so much that I was worried that I might have lost something in my timing on the stand-up. My ground game is very good, it's just that nobody has pushed me to use it. But I'm working at a gym where my coaches are pushing me to improve my ground game. It's coming together.

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And since you weren't fighting the last 10 months, I understand that in addition to improving your ground game you took a job at Sam's Club?
Yeah, I've been working there for quite some time and I got lucky that they took me back on before it was time for me to come out and fight again. It's just a job, though. I don't want that to be my career. It's difficult to work those hours and then fit in my training time, plus my family time. I want to get to the point where all I'm thinking about is working on my training.

When you look back at EliteXC, why do you think it failed?
I think it failed because they put too much into one person, and that person wasn't able to do what they needed. I knew as a fighter it was just a matter of time before their star guy would fall. People talked about me fighting Kimbo Slice, and of course I would fight Kimbo, but I don't think the organization should ever have relied on that one person. I think that was the downfall. There was a lot of s**t that was going on and I don't think I would ever want to be in an organization that was just relying on one person.

There was talk that you might fight Josh Barnett at the last Affliction show. Was that close to actually happening?
It actually was. I got to the point where I was behind on bills, it was tough, and I wanted to work. I was ready to go. Barnett is definitely a top fighter. If he wants to stand he can stand, if he wants to go to the ground he's good on the ground, so I was training pretty hard for that. I'm aiming to fight guys above me who can make me better.

Do you think you're ready for a fighter of Barnett's caliber?
As long as I'm consistently training, I'm ready for whoever. As long as I know in advance who I'm training for, I'm going to come in ready for that person.

Why did the Barnett fight fall through?
Basically, the fight between me and Barnett would have worked, it was just a conflict between contracts. They were willing to work with me, but my contract was holding me back.

What do you know about your upcoming opponent, Ron Humphrey?
Ron Humphrey, Abongo Humphrey, whatever you want to call him, I don't know too much about him, but I imagine he's going to come out real hard -- real hyper. He looks like he wants to focus mainly on his kickboxing skills. He's dangerous. Sometimes it's about who fights the hardest and he'll come out hard.

Your record is obviously impressive, but I'd like to see you fight a higher-ranked opponent. Do you have your eye on any particular opponents?
After the Humphrey fight, I'd just like to fight someone who's higher in the rankings -- someone ranked higher than me. I need that challenge to keep me on my toes. Fighting someone better than me will make me work that much harder. Definitely I'd like to fight Paul Buentello or Alistair Overeem. Anybody that's supposed to be better than me I'd like to get in there and bang with them. But that doesn't mean I'm going to go out there and overlook Abongo. He's got the heart and determination to come out there and fight, and maybe he can be the first person to push me past the first round. I don't even know what the second round feels like.

How much do you weigh right now?
Right now probably 275, so I've still got to lose a little weight. But losing 10 pounds is a piece of cake for me. I can sweat most of that out. I come in there heavy. I always come in there heavy. Humphrey is going to be 230 or 240 or something, he wants to be that lighter, quicker guy, so I'm going to put that weight on him and slow him down. I plan on having fun with this guy on Saturday night.

What do you hope to accomplish in MMA?
I just want other fighters to know that The Grim is in the game to hurt, to smash, to win.

Strikeforce Photos

    Frank Shamrock poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Frank Shamrock poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Frank Shamrock poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Frank Shamrock poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Frank Shamrock poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    Nick Diaz poses during an exclusive feature shoot for Showtime in Los Angeles in early March.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

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