Fear of unfulfilled dream inspires Kent's Brian Rogers to pro MMA career

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In a sport that leaves absolutely no room for it, fear was exactly what inspired Kent's Brian Rogers to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.

"I didn't want to be 50 years old and have to think back about what could have been," Rogers said.

That apprehension forced Rogers to take a risk, leaving his full-time job as a teacher at the LEAP school in Kent and thrusting himself into the world of MMA.

The 2002 Kent Roosevelt High School graduate had already experienced success as an part-time amateur fighter, which could not stop him from thinking about his future.

"I thought I could advance myself," Rogers said. "I thought about how good I could be if I dedicated myself to this full-time. I did not want any regrets."

With each fight, Rogers is extinguishing any anguish he may have had. He is now competing at the middlweight classification (185 pounds) inside the Bellator organization, which is the second-largest sponsor of the sport behind the UFC.

"Originally, I was just bored and wanted to compete again," said Rogers, who was a three-sport standout for the Rough Riders (football, wrestling, track) and went on to play inside linebacker at Walsh University (2002-05).

"I had always been a fan of the original UFC, and my goal initially with the training and competitions was to get back down to my football weight. I just fell in love with the sport, though."

Rogers was quick to recognize that his athletic ability, combined with his background and work ethic, could push him to the forefront of the sport.

I was 22 at the time, and I told myself that if I could not compete with the best in the world by the time I was 28 or 29, then there was something wrong."

Now 27, Rogers finds himself ahead of his own personal schedule.

Alongside head coach Marcus Marinelli, Rogers' home gym is the Strong Style MMA Fitness Center located in Independence. It is the same training facility used by Rootstown's Jessica "Evil" Eye, who is ranked No. 5 in the world at her 125-pound weight class.

Since turning pro in 2008, Rogers has posted a 10-4 record, including eight knockouts, one submission and another victory by unanimous decision. As an amateur, Rogers was 4-1.

"When you are growing up, every little kid has a goal to play in the NFL someday and the majority fall short," Rogers said. "I saw this as a second opportunity to become a professional athlete."

To do so, Rogers made the difficult decision to leave a job he already loved and had passion for.

"It was tough to leave teaching, because I loved the job, the children and all of my co-workers," said Rogers, who goes by the alias "The Predator." "The whole staff is filled with great people and they had always been supportive of me when I was an amateur. They were sad to have me leave, but happy to see me chase the opportunity."

The sport of MMA is defined as a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, from a variety of other combat sports.

From traditional wrestling to jujitsu, boxing, judo and many other styles beyond and between, fighters find themselves in a caged environment against an opponent.

For Rogers, he described himself as a powerful striker that has developed a reputation of seizing opportunities to finish weary opponents.

"I am an aggressive striker," Rogers said. "I have good instincts and when I feel that my opponent is getting rocky, I am good at finishing and not missing opportunities."

Rogers is currently training in Atlantain preparation for his next fight in February, which will be televised by SPIKE TV. It will be part of a prestigious middleweight Bellator tournament that will feature eight competitors and span three months. The tournament winner will collect a total of $100,000 in prize money, while also earning a shot at a middleweight championship bout.

In the last two tournaments, Rogers lost in the semifinal round.

"I was winning in both of those fights, but made mistakes and ended up losing," Rogers said.

This time around, Rogers wants to channel that same fear that inspired him from the very beginning. He doesn't want to wonder "what if," he wants to finish what he set out to do.

Email: tnader@recordpub.com

Twitter: @Tom_Nader

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