Almost 20 years ago, audiences were first introduced to the character known as the “Predator.” The Predator itself, who would later fall at the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character, lived its life as an elite hunter. Insert Brian “The Professional Predator” Rogers. Just like the Predator entering new ground when it took the streets of Los Angeles by storm in the sequel, Rogers will be experiencing change when he makes his first appearance in the Bellator light heavyweight division.
Before the UFC bombards fans with extremely stacked cards in the month of December, Bellator MMA returns to San Jose, Calif., for the second time in the last three months for Bellator 147 on Dec. 4. The show will be headlined by former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson. But before Thomson looks for another victory in his new home, Rogers will look for a win in his new weight class when he takes on Virgil Zwicker. This will be the first time that Rogers will fight outside of the middleweight division. Normally a fighter drops weight classes in order to attempt a resurgence. In rare instances, such as those of Randy Couture and B.J. Penn, a move up has its advantages. Couture and Penn won titles immediately following their moves into a higher weight class.
“You know, I was pretty for it right in the beginning of it,” Rogers told Combat Press. “It took a little while. I knew I would have to change my strength and condition [and] my nutrition up a little bit just to try [to] tweak my body somewhat, but I was pretty for it right in the beginning when my coach, Marc Montoya, thought of it. I think it’s going to allow me to have a little bit more energy on fight night and not as much strain and stress going down and cutting the weight and whatnot.
“My last fight at 185 [pounds], I went to bed the Sunday night beforehand — granted, I drank like three gallons of water — I went to bed at 220. I think I woke up at 212 that week. It was hurting my performance more than helping me. It was taking a lot out of my strength and conditioning and my technical training.”
The move up couldn’t have come at a better time for Rogers, seeing as how Thanksgiving was only a week away. The added benefit comes from the fact that unlike most fighters who would have had to carefully watch their food intake and weight, nothing really changed for Rogers.
“I was on my meal plan [on Thanksgiving] and the only thing I did a little bit different was I had turkey [and] a little bit of sweet potatoes,” said Rogers. “But most of the time I just stayed on my meal plan, and I trained that morning like normal and everything else. I’m not really cutting so much weight where I’m having to hinder myself or hurt myself with any type of food. I just stayed on my meal plan and turkey’s on my meal plan and I was able to move some things around.”
“The Professional Predator” has a tough test ahead of him when he takes on the knockout artist Zwicker, who has recorded 10 of his 14 professional wins by way of knockout. Zwicker will be looking for his third knockout in a row in the Bellator cage.
“I obviously respect his style,” said Rogers. “He’s heavy handed and he’s got a really good right hand that he pulls the trigger on pretty quick. Based on his cardio, it’s kind of his offense to output. Sometimes he’s countering a bit more. Sometimes he’s a little bit more aggressive. I’m looking to stand and strike with him like I do with most people. I just kinda gotta concentrate on the holes and the openings that I see in his game and expose him.”
The light heavyweight division has blown up recently, as evidenced by the four-man tournament at Bellator’s inaugural Dynamite card. The list of light heavyweights in the lineup included current champion Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Emanuel Newton and Linton Vassell. It’s a division that needed some new life brought to it. Rogers is the latest exciting new addition.
“I’ve always definitely been stronger than everybody,” Rogers said. “I still think I’m going to be one of the stronger guys at 205 [pounds]. I don’t know if I’ll have the dominance in the strength department as I used to, but to counter that I think my energy is going to be much better. I also think I’m going to be quicker than pretty much anyone that I fight. Speed and footwork as well. Maybe a little bit quicker and a little bit more agile than most people are used to facing. I think the strength part will just equal out, where I still believe that I’m going to be stronger than a lot of guys. Overall, it’s going to be me physically having to adjust to being a little bit heavier than other guys that I normally have fought or trained with.
“I’ve done a lot too with my strength and conditioning program. We do a lot of agility drills to keep my speed. I use this stuff called Spidertech Kinesio Tape, which helps recovery a lot. It allows me to bounce back even quicker within training and stuff like that. I’m doing strength and conditioning three days a week, and we have a lot of guys in the Colorado area.”
One thing that Rogers is famous for in Bellator is his use of the flying knee. Officially, he boasts three wins by flying knee with two of those coming inside the Bellator cage. Just check out his win over Vitor Vianna at Bellator 61. If fans are worried that the change in weight will stop Rogers from completing his “unofficial” signature move, have no fear.
“It’s one of those things… When you see, you see it,” Rogers said. “I will say, technically, it’s four. One time, I flying knee’d a guy in the regional circuit and he dropped face first and the ref didn’t call it, so I had to hammer fist him a little bit for the TKO. Hitting somebody with a big knee is like hitting someone with a bowling ball or a baseball bat. It’s a large weapon that gets smashed into someone’s face. You know, it’s one of those things where if I see the opening’s there, I’m definitely going to jump for it because it’s a good launching pad and a good fast weapon for anybody.”
The old Bellator tournament format is now a thing of the past, but it will always be a huge part of the organization’s history. It was how many fighters, including as Daniel Straus, David “The Caveman” Rickels, Michael Chandler and Rogers, really gained their status with Bellator. These men fought their way up the ladder in order to get one step closer to championship status. Some of these men made it all the way through their respective tournaments and claimed the ultimate prize. While Rogers was never able to capture the Bellator middleweight crown, he was able to gain something else from the tournament: experience. Now that it’s gone, Rogers sees it as a blessing and a curse.
“I like it much better, to be honest, because I think I got signed to Bellator a little young and I was a little green in my career,” Rogers said. “Going into the tournament, I was only 7-2 and I did a lot of win one, lose one, win one, lose one, lose two, win one. It was tough to kind of early develop yourself in that short amount of time. I’m thankful for the opportunity. It certainly made me a household name in MMA and it brought me a lot of opportunity and notoriety and whatnot.
“Now if I was in the same spot in Bellator, I’d be much more of a prospect. I’d fight on some undercards and main cards, and I’d be kinda built along with the other prospects. It’s a luxury that I didn’t have before and a lot of guys who started in Bellator didn’t have, so I kinda like the process now — the big shows [and] x number of additional shows throughout the year. I think it’s easier to build guys up and give people an opportunity to see that fighter two or three times a year and see that maturation and maturity in their game.”
When Bellator recently announced the trilogy fight between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, the MMA world was split down the middle as far as reactions go. Many were outraged that Bellator would pit these two fighters against each other after all these years. They saw this fight for exactly what it is: A way to put eyes on the Bellator fighters. The other half of the MMA world was excited to see these two legends back inside the cage. While it isn’t an Octagon this time around, it doesn’t matter. These two fighters were pioneers at the onset of mixed martial arts. Rogers has already put it out there that if he is victorious, he wants a spot on this monumental card.
“There’s a lot of eyes and ears on that card,” said Rogers. “Both guys are household names. When I travel and if I run into someone and tell them what I do, they ask me about Kimbo Slice, they have memories of Royce Gracie [and] they have memories of Ken Shamrock. So it’s going to bring a lot of eyes and ears to Bellator because of the tradition and the name that these guys have. For a guy like myself who may not be as well known, it’s a good launching pad. So they may see someone that they remember or somebody that they look forward to seeing that might gain their attention and notoriety and put on a good performance.
“I think the reason that Virgil Zwicker and I got matched up is because they kinda view [us] as being the middle of the pack at 205 [pounds]. I wouldn’t be surprised if next they matched me up with somebody else who’s kind of in the middle of the pack, or maybe somebody who just lost in the tournament that they had a little while ago or something like that. I’m not real sure. I think I need two wins before they give me a bigger name, like a tournament winner. I haven’t really analyzed it a ton before I get through Zwicker and hopefully [I’ll] be ready for February 19th in Houston.”
It’s no surprise that many fighters hold regular day jobs in addition to fighting in order to support their families or pay for training and so on. Rogers previously held the position of an associate special-education teacher in his hometown of Kent, Ohio, before deciding in 2013 to start training full-time.
“Since I moved to Denver, Colorado, in about January of 2014, I originally would just train and fight,” Rogers said. “Then, the end of December 2014, I actually started working a little bit. One of my teammates and training partners — Chris Mierzwiak, who also happens to be from Ohio and trains out here now as well — I worked with him at Zen Planner, which is a member management software company for martial-arts and fitness businesses. So I was working there for about nine months and it was a really cool office with really good people. You could bring your dog to work if you wanted to and wear workout clothes.
“In October, I moved over to one of their partners. I’m currently with a company called 97 Display, and we build websites for martial-arts and fitness businesses. So I get to talk to martial-arts business owners pretty much each and every day and help construct their website and explain that to them. I work from home actually, which is great with my training because I can kind of prioritize my calls around that. They are based out of Winston-Salem, N.C., but I’ve been with 97 Display since the end of October. I’m really enjoying it and it’s so much better for my training camp. Every once in awhile, I’ll run into someone who actually knows me or that knows of Bellator.”
When it comes to weigh-ins and fight nights, many fighters use the chance to show off the sponsors that have helped them get to where they are and the people that have made it possible. In addition to his sponsors, Rogers will be representing a non-profit organization that has hometown ties.
“Kids Capes of Courage is a non-profit that makes superhero capes for children that are facing grave circumstances, terminal illnesses, surgeries and things of that nature,” said Rogers. “It’s run by my friend Alex’s mother, Debby Rowland, and it started in my home area of northeastern Ohio, and they give out capes to kids who are in need. So me and all my corner men are actively going to be wearing Kids Capes for Courage to the fight, to the weigh-ins and whatnot. We have a GoFundMe set up and we’re trying to raise $3500 by Christmas, and I think we are at two or three hundred right now. [We’re] just trying to get them some more exposure.”