Former Strikeforce fighter Brett Rogers will return on Friday night at Bellator 71, when he meets Kevin Asplund in a non-tournament heavyweight fight matchup.
Rogers’ MMA career was disrupted after a case of domestic disturbance led to a guilty plea to a felony count of third degree assault in early 2011. Rogers was sentenced to 60 days in jail, but returned to professional MMA in September 2011, where he lost a split decision to Eddie Sanchez in the Titan Fighting Championships promotion.
Strikeforce and the UFC clearly weren’t interested in Rogers after he was eligible to fight, and it was uncertain if he was going to get a chance in another major US MMA organization.
Bellator announced the signing earlier this month, and there was an immediate firestorm of criticism from many MMA fans.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney understands that this was a controversial signing, and had this to say when I recently spoke with him:
“I saw a lot of fan feedback, and I’m always interested in what people are saying. (Rogers) management came to us months ago and started explaining that they felt his life was back on track. He was back with his wife and training. He’s taking care of family matters and his family. Based on his history and recent record, we were a bit stand offish. His management team kept coming to us. I talked to him and heard from about what he’s doing, and how he’s trying to improve his life.”
Instead of trying to be a bouncer or security guard, where Rogers could have ended up in an altercation, he chose a different route, according to Rebney.
“He literally took a job delivering newspapers instead of working security at a club, or a job along those lines.”
Instead, he’ll have a chance to leave that behind and focus on Asplund, a heavy-handed former friend and training partner.
With his wife and family supporting him, Rogers stayed in shape and hopes to prove to MMA fans they can forgive his checkered past.
In his past five fights, Rogers is just 1-4, though lost to the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and Sanchez. His lone win was a unanimous decision against Ruben Villareal during W-1 MMA 6 in October 2010.