(Excellent use of the ‘Rogers, you a hater!’ sample here.)
After sitting out for nearly a year following the collapse of Pro Elite and the ensuing sticky contract situation, Brett “The Grimm” Rogers finally gets back into action this weekend as he takes on Ron “Abongo” Humphrey in Strikeforce. Despite his undefeated record, Rogers may be best known for his feud with EliteXC poster boy Kimbo Slice (see also: this awesome video). In this exclusive interview, Rogers talks about that bad blood, his frustration with Elite XC, and his plans for taking over the Strikeforce heavyweight class.
Your last fight was in May of 2008, and since then you’ve been waiting around for another fight, first with EliteXC, and now with Strikeforce. Are you concerned that all the time off, all the contract stress, may have made you rusty or affected your timing?
I’m more eager than anything. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things, and now I’m just ready to go. It’s time for me to go out there and show off, once again. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who bumped into contract conflicts over it. But everything’s squared away now. I’m just trying to focus on what I have to do this weekend and go out and get a win.
As far as your opponent, “Abongo” Humphrey, have you seen much tape on him? He did BET’s “Iron Ring,” but do you know much about him other than that?
To tell you the truth, no. I knew he did the “Iron Ring” thing, and I know that was kind of like an “Ultimate Fighter” kind of show, something you definitely take serious because it could take you to that next level. But that’s pretty much all I know about his background.
I know he’s going to be a lot like I was when I was in his shoes. He’s going to come out ready to win, ready to kill. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I know what to look for. I’m going to let him come to me and then I’ll put him in his place, calm him down. I know he’s definitely going to come out hard, so I’m going to have to slow him down.
Looking back on your time with EliteXC now, what do you take away from that experience?
I take the goods and the bads. The good was getting out there and getting a chance to show my skills, being the first to fight on national television, that was amazing to be a part of. The bads, well, I learned you got to open your eyes and pay attention all the time. Just because you’re in a major organization doesn’t mean you’re safe. Anything can happen. Now I know to watch for those signs of trouble, those small little ticks – there’s always little ticks that you recognize but don’t want to pay attention to, but you have to. And the other thing is, any organization that’s trying to grow all off of one fighter, that’s something I’ll never be a part of again.
Seems like we’re talking about Kimbo, so we might as well talk about him. You called him out and put him on the spot in the post-fight press conference after that first CBS show. Was that a calculated move on your part to try and use his fame as a springboard for your own career?
No, it was kind of spur of the moment. That was me, as a fighter, seeing this other guy being showcased as, basically, ‘the king of the cage,’ and I knew he was really just a show type of fighter. Kimbo knew how it was going, and I’m pretty sure that stress led to his downfall. He got caught, and even before he got caught, I said that if it was me and him it would be over in the first round. I could see from his skills, it wouldn’t last long at all.
You seem to still have a little disdain for Kimbo.
He’s the type that doesn’t like to train. Me, my training, I wanted as much as I could get, and I couldn’t get all the training time I wanted because I had to work on top of that. But him, he got paid pretty good for his short time in the spotlight, as we all know, so training should have been first and foremost on his mind to make sure he lives up to that hype. So that’s why I got a little upset. I saw this guy making all this money and can’t even make time to train and keep up on his work, it was just frustrating for me.
Did EliteXC ever tell you that they weren’t going to match you up against Kimbo because they wanted to build him up as a star?
No, but they didn’t have to say it. They didn’t have to come out and say it verbally. That was just how it was. There was a lot of weird shit happening. I was invited out to the [final EliteXC event], but I couldn’t make it. And then Ken Shamrock, who’s been in the game since before it really even existed, it’s hard for me to believe that he’d make a mistake like that and get cut. I’m not saying anybody did anything on purpose, but there was a lot of weird shit going on there.
You talk about working while trying to make it as a fighter. Since you’ve been sidelined by these contract troubles, did you have to go back to working full time?
Yeah, I had to go back to a forty-hour work week at my old job [installing tires at Sam’s Club]. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had to go back to work. I just had to tell myself it would be all right, stay strong in mind and body, and stay focused.
So I’ve been really concentrating on winning this fight so I can get back to training full-time. That’s what I want. Please believe this, I want to fight the best. I know you have to beat somebody to become somebody. If that gets me closer to that early retirement, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to be like Shamrock, trying to do this forever. Your body gets to a point where it can’t take this shit. I’m not trying to be fifty and in a wheel chair. I want to get the fans to respect me as a fighter and get the opportunity to fight the big fights and do my thing.
You say you have to beat somebody to be somebody. Are you at all concerned that there aren’t a lot of top heavyweights in Strikeforce right now? Alistair Overeem is the champ, but he’s off in Japan doing his thing right now. Who is there for you to prove yourself against in Strikeforce?
Well, that’s true, there’s not that many heavyweights aside from Overeem, or Paul Buentello, but if those are the guys I have to go through to get to the next level, then I’ll do that. I don’t know where my contract stands right now, but it’s not even just about this organization. The way I see it, I can end up anywhere, but I’m always going to be trying to fight the best. I have talent, I have a good work ethic, and I’ll fight anybody.
This fight is obviously important to moving your career forward, being the first fight back and on Showtime. Have you been able to dedicate yourself to training, or did you have to work a forty-hour week leading up to this?
Yeah, I guess you could say I worked a forty-hour week. I took a little time off just recently to focus on this fight, but there’s nothing harder than training, going to work, then going back to training, and finally going home to try and get some family time in. That’s really stressful. I believe I’m good enough for this weekend, though. To tell you the truth, I can’t see it being extremely tough. He’s new to this, and I’m not. He’s trying to be where I’m at and I’m trying to move past him. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the calm fighter in this situation. I’m going to take him out whenever he gives me the chance, and he will give me that chance.
After this fight, do you go back to work at your job, or will you get enough of a payday that you can just train?
I’ll put it to you like this, I’m not going to be rich after this fight. But I’m going to be rich enough that I’ll have some money in my pocket and I can devote myself. I’m definitely going to be smart in the financial department this time around. You can’t depend on anyone else. I’m not depending on anyone when it comes to my bank account.
My last question for you, you say you don’t expect this fight to be all that tough. Give me a specific prediction for how you see it going.
Well, we’re both going to go out there, play to the crowd, do our thing. Then it’s going to be, ‘Are you ready? Are you ready?’ After that, he’s going to be putting his little jab hand out there, maybe give me a lead leg with the option to take him down, but you should already know what I’m going to do. I’m going to catch him with that strong right, maybe a good hook, and it’s going to be a wrap. When it’s all said and done it’s going to be me knocking him out, whether it’s standing or on the ground.
I guess that’s specific enough. Thanks, Brett. Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank Michael Riley, my manager and agent. Also, my new training center out in Lakeville, (Minn.) called Strike Fitness. And also my other one, the Wolf’s Lair out in Minnetonka.