The second in a three-part series. Read the first part here.
Brett Rogers used to talk to his television. “I can get in there and do that. Dude ain’t nobody,” he’d say while watching mixed martial arts bouts. “He ain’t nothing. I can do that.” But it wasn’t idle chatter – Rogers was working around the clock for an opportunity to prove it.
Since 2003, Rogers’ life has revolved around two garages; the Sam’s Club bay where he worked as a tire technician, and Mike Reilly’s informal MMA training facility. His personal and professional lives were tied by toil. Rogers would wake at 3 a.m. some days to life weights, put in eight hours at Sam’s Club, train, and sleep. The schedule was grueling but gave Rogers old-world strength.
“I can grip truck batteries. I can walk them from the car, to wherever,” he said, adding that he knows for a fact that the harder the grip, the harder the punch. While Reilly improved his technique to score knockouts, Sam’s Club revved up his raw power. Some fighters flip tires during training camps but Rogers did it for a paycheck. But more important than the physical conditioning was the mental discipline required to meet all of his obligations, including working on fight days.
“I would go to work! I’m not gonna skip out on my money. Come on now, I got three kids,” he said. “I’d go in [Sam’s Club] that morning. Make sure I get a nap and just go in and go for the kill. I was gonna make it work.”
It did work. Rogers’ fighting career progressed, he adopted his signature Mohawk after watching a documentary about ancient warriors who sported the hairstyle, and eventually EliteXC came calling. Rogers knocked Ralph Kelly out in the first round in his promotional debut in November 2007 and did the same to James Thompson just three months later. The performances earned him the honor of being one half of the first live mixed martial arts contest on network television when he laid out Jon Murphy in 61 seconds on the same night Kimbo Slice beat Thompson in the sport’s most viewed fight to date.
“I’m sure I woulda knocked Kimbo out too,” said Rogers, who challenged the famed street fighter every chance he got.
He admits it was a play to further his name and insists he respected Slice but was annoyed that they appeared on three cards together but never fought each other. Rogers didn’t get to topple Kimbo but Slice was cut down anyway, and EliteXC went down, too.
“It killed me. It killed me hard,” said Rogers.
Feeling like he was on the verge of becoming a full-time fighter, Rogers had cut back his hours at Sam’s Club. The organization’s folding was a rude awakening but he had established himself as one of the best heavyweights not under contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so it was only matter of time before a new employer came calling.
“I’m just glad I got that second chance with Strikeforce because they didn’t have to pick me up,” he said of signing with the San Jose-based promotion, noting only a few fighters from EliteXC made it to Strikeforce.
Rogers went to the second round in his Strikeforce debut—a TKO over Abongo Humphrey in April—for only the second time in his 10-fight career. He wasn’t in shape, explained Rogers, because he had to go back to working in the garage. The win put him across the cage from former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Twenty-two seconds after the bell sounded Arlovski was unconscious in a heap and Rogers was ready to put in his two week’s notice at Sam’s Club.
It happened a little later than planned but both Rogers and Reilly are finally out of garage. “The Grim” is a full time fighter, scheduled to appear in the main event against Fedor Emelianenko on CBS Nov. 7, and Reilly’s training center has moved out of his garage and into a new facility, Ambition MMA.