MMA fans will likely remember England’s Saul Rogers from his time on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 22. Unfortunately for the TUF 22 featherweight finalist, that would be the last place they would see him for a year after the show’s conclusion.
At the time, Rogers was 9-1 and had just defeated his three opponents in dominant fashion to earn his spot in the last fight of the tournament. One of those wins coming over the eventual winner, Ryan Hall, who replaced Rogers. Hall would defeat Artem Lobov to claim “The Ultimate Fighter” label, another man that Rogers had already defeated in his career.
As he prepared to face Lobov for the second time, the fight would be set for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. However, Rogers wouldn’t end up making it as he incorrectly provided the UFC with his visa information. Thus resulting in his immediate release from the promotion.
Four fights later and come Saturday night he’ll find himself competing in the opportunity of a lifetime as part of the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix. The winner will walk away with the division’s title as well as one million dollars.
“This has been like my dream come true,” Rogers told The Body Lock. “I’ve come to Bellator, relatively new to Bellator, obviously, I’ve been on the scene a long time but relatively new with Bellator. And to be put in the mix of this tournament with all these great athletes. For one, it showcases my level and where I’m at, and number two, it lets me skip the queue of fighting the lower end guys for a long time before people give me the respect I deserve. So this is perfect for me.”
Rogers, a pro since 2011, will look to advance through the tournament at Bellator 228 by defeating the most seasoned of the participants, Daniel Weichel. For the multiple-time title challenger in Weichel, this will be the 51st bout of his career.
“He’s very experienced, he’s good in all areas, but I just feel like my self-belief and confidence and determination is going to be the key to beating this guy,” Rogers explained. “I know he’s not going to be an easy match for me. He’s going to give me problems everywhere. But I just feel like wherever this fight goes, I’m going to be a step ahead.”
The 29-year old SBG Manchester product has gained a unique amount of experience on his journey. Not many fighters go from TUF to getting a chance at another – more lucrative – version of that very same show.
As different as TUF and the Bellator Grand Prix may be on a surface level, Rogers broke down how similar they actually are in anticipation for his big fight.
“The two tournament styles are very different but have a lot of similarities at the same time,” he said. “Whereas I’m in this room here now, surrounded by guys I’m going to potentially be fighting. The same in The Ultimate Fighter, you’re living with guys that you’re going to be potentially fighting. So they’re very similar aspects. I like the TUF style, just because it was done in just a short space of time. This is over 12 months is a long time. And I mean, anything can happen over the 12 months. So but again, I personally prefer the tournament styles. And I feel like Bellator are doing huge things in the sport at the minute. And yeah, this is going to be huge.”
Even though “The Hangman” has tested his skills in so many different locations and aspects at this point, there is never a limit to where one can fight in combat sports.
With the emergence of Bellator and RIZIN’s successful cross-promotional fights, the idea of competing in one of those is something that Rogers is more than interested in.
“Hundred percent, like, let it be known,” Rogers stated. “I’m all for the cross-promotions if they want to match me up with a featherweight in Japan, all well and good. I’m down for that. I fought in Japan once and honestly, it was one of the best experiences in my fight career. I’ve had a lot of fights and that fight being over in Japan and that culture and that experience and that side of it. That was huge for me. So honestly, they’re doing that cross-promotion. I know they’ve done it with a few guys put me down first on the list.”