Mixed martial arts is a very fickle sport. Some young athletes enter the game with a grand vision of becoming an international superstar and making millions of dollars. In reality, this isn’t very likely to happen. Millionaire fighters are few and far between. Call it blind optimism or basic ignorance, but many guys chase that red herring with reckless abandon.
On the other side of the coin, many fighters pursue careers outside of the sport. While it seems like a back-up plan to the layman, it can often be the primary plan for the aspiring superstar.
Most people know Brian Rogers as the longtime Bellator veteran who spent most of his career at middleweight before recently making the permanent jump to the light heavyweight division. The move up a division has become more commonplace in MMA, primarily for health reasons.
“I’m just feeling better with my training and performance,” Rogers told Combat Press. “I’m putting more supplements and food and nutrition into my body, so I’m having better performances, day in and day out. You can have a great camp and completely destroy it in a weight cut. I was a little bit of a victim of that in the past.”
Rogers has his plan outside of fighting, too. He is well educated and has worked in many professional capacities. His current focus is his fighting career, but the 33-year-old is prepared for life outside the cage.
“My professional career and life would be so far advanced somewhat if I wasn’t in MMA,” Rogers explained. “I’m a guy who’s fortunate enough to have his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and I [am] a former teacher. I’ve also worked as a sales executive at my last two jobs. I can put energy into other avenues if need be, but I feel like I finally have it figured out at 205 [pounds] in a lot of different ways. I’m looking forward to displaying that back in the big show. I want to show people what I have in me.”
Rogers last fought for Bellator in April 2016, when he went to Italy to face longtime UFC vet Alessio Sakara. Rogers dropped that one via a second-round knockout. He made his way back to Ohio two months ago to pull off a one-minute knockout of Lewis Rumsey. This weekend, he has a tremendous opportunity to stay in the win column in his current home of Denver.
UFC veteran Tony Sims recently revived a former promotion to create Paramount MMA, which showcases local and regional talent in the iconic Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. Paramount MMA 7 takes place Friday night, and Rogers will be facing former Denver fighter Canaan Grigsby. It was also recently announced that UFC President Dana White will be in attendance for his reality show, Dana White: Lookin’ For A Fight, so this is a big opportunity for all of the fighters on the card.
“It was kind of interesting,” Rogers said. “I had a fight in Ohio on January 28, and I knew this fight was coming March 24, and I wanted to be on the card, so my manager Jim Walter and my head coach, Marc Montoya, and myself reached out to Tony. He said they were looking for a main event, and I would be a great name to have on there, and I said to let me know about opponents. Literally the next day, they offered the match-up. It was a pretty quick process.”
Grigsby used to train with Sims at Elevation Fight Team in Denver, but he relocated to Oklahoma. Grigsby, like Rogers, is known for having some serious knockout power, but Rogers definitely has the upper hand in the grappling department.
“He’s a guy who everybody says is a gamer,” Rogers said of Grigsby. “He shows up on fight night and he’s ready. He seems to have a pretty good chin. He’s tough, he’s durable, and you can’t take him light, because he needs one punch to end your night. I just need to be on my toes, stay aware, stay away from what he’s best at. Not getting loose, not getting wild, and not getting in a position of getting caught.
“I’m excited, because he’s a guy who wants to stand and wants to trade, and I’m excited to show off some skills. I think if it’s a kickboxing match, I beat him. If it’s a wrestling match, I beat him. If it’s a boxing match, I beat him. If it’s jiu-jitsu, I beat him. But, it’s mixed martial arts, so you have to put them all together on fight night, and therein lies the challenge.
“People should come watch me fight, because I think I’m currently the best 205er in Colorado. I put on exciting fights. I think my highlight reel, if you Google it, speaks for itself. When the lights come on, I show up. I’ve put on some long-lasting, memorable performances. And, also, people love the UFC and Bellator, but you have to support regional and local MMA if you want to see those guys get to the next level. Sometimes, we lose touch with the grassroots of the sport.”
With a win over Grigsby, Rogers would be in a very favorable position, especially in front of White. The win would earn him the inaugural Paramount MMA light heavyweight title, which could open a lot of doors. However, Rogers is a realist. He knows that things do not always go as planned. Fortunately, he has a lot to fall back on.
“Obviously, I was with Bellator for a long time, and Bellator and UFC are where you go to make some money,” Rogers said. “Since I’ve moved up a weight class, I’ve won two out of three. So I win this, and I’m three out of four. Not to look too far ahead, but I have a fight opportunity in Ohio for June 10. I’m hoping, honestly, with a win, I don’t have to take that, because I’m back to the big show. But if not, I plan to keep fighting locally and regionally until I get that big show opportunity again. However, if, for some reason, it doesn’t come around, then I’ll go out on my own terms.”
Rogers has worked with Zen Planner, a company that helps gyms track memberships. He is currently working with 97 Display, an internet marketing company. He is always looking to expand his background in the business world. If things don’t go the way he hopes in MMA, he will still be able to use his best attribute — being a people person.
“I’ll go wherever the opportunity is,” Rogers said. “For example, I hate New York City, but I would go there for the right opportunity. I’m going there in a few weeks to see some friends and do some business, actually. I like Colorado a lot. It’s got a Midwest feel in the West. There are a lot of Ohio transplants out here anyway, so I’ve enjoyed the culture and the vibe.
“Being in Colorado has opened up a lot of new experiences and opportunities, and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of different people. It has just broadened my resume and my network. I don’t envision leaving any time soon, and I can get back to Ohio on a direct flight. As much as I love sales, marketing and things like that, I have a big passion for college football. I think about getting into college athletics a lot. I’m always on the rise looking for new opportunities to broaden my horizon. I’m an organization and structure guy.”
Always one step ahead in life, Rogers never stops moving. If he’s not traveling, he’s hustling in the business world. The train rarely stops rolling. MMA may be a fickle sport, but Rogers knows exactly where he’s headed.
Rogers would like to thank his coaches and training partners at Factory X Muay Thai, manager Jim Walter, his family, friends, fans and sponsors. Follow Brian on Twitter: @BRogThePredator
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