· On the Spot ~ Brian “The Predator” Rogers
Bellator has taken to signing many of the sport’s top prospects, and one name that has been on the verge of breaking out is Cleveland, Ohio’s Brian “The Predator” Rogers (7-2, 0-0 BFC), who signed with the organization over the summer and will make his debut in the middleweight tournament this weekend at Bellator 50 against Cincinnati product Victor O’Donnell (10-2, 0-0 BFC).
Rogers comes in riding a six-fight first round knockout streak that has earned him the attention of some of the sport’s biggest names, and he plans on continuing that streak through the Bellator middleweight tournament and into a fight with current world champion, Hector Lombard.
David McKinney recently caught up with Rogers before his fight this weekend to discuss his thoughts heading into the tournament:
David McKinney: Obviously with you and your opponent for Saturday Victor O’Donnell being the top two middleweights in Ohio, your names must have been mentioned as a potential matchup before now.
Brian Rogers: I think it’s one of those things where we’ve been staring down the pipe at each other for awhile. He’s winning, I’m winning, and it’s one of those things that’s gotta happen at some point. His name was brought to me even before my Strikeforce fight by the people at Strikeforce, but somebody else ended up taking the fight at the time, and I just ended up fighting him. It’s just kind of one of those things that is bound to happen, it’s kind of a Browns vs. Bengals, Northeast Ohio vs. Southern Ohio.
DM: Well hopefully you’ll be more prepared for this fight than the football Browns were for their game with the Bengals last weekend.
BR: I’ll be alright, man. I always show up when the lights come on, that’s the good thing about me. I’m used to the high pressure occasions, and I think that’s one of the good things about me.
DM: Your teammate, Chris Lozano, is also fighting in Bellator and recently earned a spot in the welterweight semifinals. Does seeing a guy that you train with on a daily basis being successful in the same organization give you any more confidence heading into your tournament run?
BR: For sure, Chris and I have pretty much trained all together this summer. Fortunately I have the summers off, so we did strength and conditioning together about three or four days a week in addition to our team practice at Strong Style. So we kind of have the same preparation throughout this. I was actually hoping to be at his fight, but with it being the week before mine, I just decided not to travel. We motivate each other and push each other every day in practice, and we throw a lot of strategy and ideas out. Although it is an individual sport, you still root for your teammates and help them get better and you see what they go through every day.
DM: It seems like up at Strong Style you guys have a lot of fighters with big fights coming up, of course with you and Lozano in Bellator, Jessica Eye will be making her Bellator debut next week, Stipe Miocic will make his UFC debut next month, and Forrest Petz will fight for the NAAFS title in about a month. Is the atmosphere there different with so many guys training for big fights?
BR: It’s the same atmosphere that we’d had for a few years, but it’s just taken awhile for people to find us. Ohio is probably the best state for mixed martial arts, and I know for a fact in 2010 Ohio put on more MMA events than any other state in the U.S. we’re a legit state for MMA, and I think we’re one of the best gyms not only in Ohio or the Midwest, but in the world. It’s just that we haven’t got as much publicity as the Jackson camp, or AKA, or old-school Miletich. There aren’t many camps besides ours that have home-grown and raised their products. All our guys are Northeast Ohio-based and have come up together, fighting through the amateur ranks and now pros. Not many other camps can say that, and that’s a testament to our coaches Marcus Marinelli, Pablo Castro, and Joe Delguyd. You know, we haven’t had people flying from all over the world to come train with us, but I think we will soon.
DM: Let’s delve back into your fight with O’Donnell. Obviously it’s not a secret, you’re more of a striker and he’s more of a grappler if you just look at your records. What would you say is your key to winning this fight going in on Saturday?
BR: Just being patient. I’m always looking for the knockout. I’m always looking to finish a guy with strikes. But really just being patient, and not putting yourself in a position where you’re gonna swing and he’s gonna be able to take you down and hold you. But being patient and being smart. I’m usually pretty calm, so I just have to be patient and do what I do.
DM: One of the things that I’ve noticed about you is that, even when you landed a big shot early in your last fight against Rammel, you stayed patient and waited for the knockout to come to you, where a lot of guys would have sold out for that after landing that big shot. So is that something that is always in your gameplan?
BR: Yeah, he likes to stand. He’s not really a traditional jiu-jitsu guy where his striking is bad. You know, he likes to stand in the pocked and trade. But really, I’m just excited for the fight. Just strategy-wise and I’m ready to do what I do.
DM: With that being said, do you have a prediction on how this fight is going to go?
BR: I’m not a prediction guy, but every win I’ve had as an amateur and as a pro I’ve finished. I’m not so much worried about the first round streak, but I’d like to get the finish and the win. You know, he’s fought four UFC vets: against Chris Camozzi on “The Ultimate Fighter,” the win over Forrest Petz, he has a win over Rafael “Sapo” Natal, and a decision loss to Constantinos Phillippou. Those are four UFC vets, some wins and some losses, but the common factor is that no one has ever put him away. So if I’m able to do that, it puts me on the map. It shows the world about my abilities and the quality of Bellator fighters.
DM: You mentioned that you’re not worried about the knockout streak, but obviously it has gotten you a lot of attention. Is there any pressure to keep that going though?
BR: I’m not really worried about it at all, I just want to get the W. If it comes in the first round, then great. But I’m not really too worried about it whatsoever.
DM: I know that you have a unique outlook and have admitted to willingly looking ahead going into fights, from a standpoint of ‘I have to win this fight to get to somewhere bigger.’ Obviously you didn’t enter the Bellator tournament just to win one fight, so have you visualized yourself winning the tournament and fighting Hector Lombard?
BR: You know, I just want to get to the next round. I’m already excited about where I get to travel at in the next round. But obviously I have to get through Victor O’Donnell to get that opportunity. But since I was an amateur and I was 22 or 23, I told my coach that if I’m not fighting at the highest level of this sport by the time I was 28 or 29 then I was doing something wrong. Right now I’m 27 and I have that opportunity, so I’ve always looked ahead and I’ve always had a plan to try to fight with the best in the world and to make money. To be just happy where I’m at doesn’t make sense. From every amateur fight and every local fight I’ve had coming up, I’ve been thinking to myself coming to the cage, ‘You have to win this fight to get to the next step.’ A loss is a step back. You either get better or you get worse.
DM: Any sponsors you’d like to thank?
BR: I’ll start with Strong Style MMA, SPC Crossfit, Intimidation Clothing for providing my shorts. VXRSI out of Seattle for stepping up and sponsoring me as well. Defiance Tattoos in Kent is where I get all my tattoos done, Fast Graphics for doing my banner and my shorts, Jose’s Landing and Crow’s Auto Body. I’d also like to thank John P. Lennon, MuscleBasix, Jaco, TRX, Faction Mouth Guards, and people can follow me on Twitter @BRogthePredator.