HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- For a few seconds, it looked like Brett Rogers might score one of the biggest upsets in mixed martial arts’ history during his thrilling encounter with Fedor Emelianenko Saturday at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Rogers” at the Sears Centre Arena.
The previously undefeated Rogers, who began training full time only last May, rose to the occasion against arguably the best fighter to ever grace the game. Rogers’ first punch, a left counter, broke Emelianenko’s nose and sent a steady stream of blood flowing down the Russian’s face.
Later, Rogers blasted through the Emelianenko’s guard and battered him with substantial punches before the sambo champion managed to turn the tide less than two minutes into the second round and knocked Rogers down. Referee “Big” John McCarthy stepped in quickly to save the prone Rogers, though the fighter said he felt the call was premature.
“I was down, but I wasn’t out, so no. But I’m not going to complain about it,” said Rogers.
If there is anything Rogers would do differently if given a second chance, the heavy-handed fighter -- who’s won all ten of his bouts with his fists -- said he would take more stock in what he does best in the cage.
“I was kind of giving him a little more respect,” said Rogers. “He was playing the game right. He was just real loose and I didn’t come out like I normally do. I come out aggressive and next time I’ll come out strong, a lot more… I hurt myself by not performing the way I should have. I should have thrown my hands.”
Rogers also credited Emelianenko’s swiftness as a pivotal factor in the bout.
“The speed on his right hand –- I think a lot of people sleep on that,” said Rogers. “I definitely knew that that was his punch and I’m just going to work real hard on defending that. I like to throw punches and I like to drop my hands and he kind of capitalized on that. I let him get too close.”
Emelianenko praised the fighter’s efforts.
“It was a very good fight and Brett has a lot of good size, which other fighters did not have,” said Emelianenko through his translator.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker applauded Rogers’ show of heart.
“Brett -- I think he surprised a lot of you,” said Coker. “I think he was an underdog in this fight, and he came out and I think they had a couple of exchanges. I think the weight was an issue, but Fedor is Fedor and he does what he does.”
If Rogers proved anything, it’s that the 28-year-old fighter has more to offer than just a puncher’s chance. To fight Emelianenko, Rogers said he had to make himself believe that.
“I put myself up there. I put myself on the pedestal,” said Rogers. “I don’t see myself as a low-class fighter or however you want to see it. I feel I can fight with the best and that I will fight with the best.”
In only his 11th career bout, taking on the king of the mountain, Rogers took away a lesson.
“I learned that I just need to trust in my instincts a little bit more,” he said. “I definitely saw a lot of openings. I just didn’t take them.”