At first, Bellator didn’t want Brett Rogers.
He was a former top-10 heavyweight who had fought Fedor Emelianenko and beaten Andrei Arlovski, but he was also sentenced to 60 days in jail last September after pleading guilty to a felony count of third-degree assault following a domestic dispute.
It was the type of baggage that many fight promotions refuse to deal with. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney also refused, but Rogers’ management kept calling.
“His management came at us literally for a two-and-a-half-month period and set the foundation,” Rebney told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “They laid the groundwork and told us everything there was to know about him, about what he’d done, about what he had tried to do in terms of seeking forgiveness from his family, where he was working, how he had stayed out of harm’s way or bad situations, how he was literally getting up every morning at 2 a.m. to deliver papers because he didn’t want to work as a bouncer at a club or do other things that might put him in harm’s way.”
Rebney came around, signing Rogers earlier this month, but picking up the heavyweight was a process.
“It was literally months, and the initial reaction was no interest,” Rebney said. “And then the next reaction was really not interested. And then as his management continued to come at us, what can we do? He’s with his wife. They’ve gone through extensive counseling. He’s with his kids. He loves his family. He is trying desperately to get his life back on track. This is what he can do to make a living.”
As well as Rogers’ management had done their job, Rebney still needed to talk to the fighter.
“I had the opportunity to do that and get kind of an in-depth analysis of the story from him, and from that made a decision,” Rebney said. “Is it the right decision? The future will tell whether or not it’s the right decision. Will he make a mistake again on some front? Again, that’s not something that I can control, but given the totality of the circumstances and the conversations that I had with him and with his management, I did feel that we were willing to give him an opportunity that others were obviously not willing to give him.”
Rogers makes his Bellator debut Friday against Kevin Asplund, who enters the fight with a 15-1 record. A year after his arrest, Rogers is getting another chance and now he’ll have to deliver inside and outside the cage.
“I was raised by folks who talked to me a lot about forgiveness,” Rebney said. “I’m not in any way condoning what he did by any stretch of the imagination, but he seems to be in a place where another opportunity was warranted, and we gave it to him. Let’s see how it plays itself out.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 17:03).