CHESTER - On June 6, 2009, Brett "Da Grim" Rogers (11-4) sat as the newest, brightest star of the Strikeforce heavyweight division following a 22-second knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski on national television. That win improved his record to 10-0.
From there the star fizzled out as Rogers lost four of his next five fights and lost his contract with Zuffa, who owns Strikeforce and the UFC, after being convicted of domestic violence due to an incident against his wife in June 2011, which sent him to jail for 60 days in fall of that year.
"Actually it's been a struggle this last year," said Rogers. "Everybody is aware, you know, that I've been down.
"I fell off of Strikeforce with a loss to (Josh) Barnett and losing my title fights (to Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem). Ever since then my head's been where I've been trying to piece myself together.
"I've had situations where people in my crew have been telling me good things, bad things, and I feel the time off has been a hellish moment, but I learned a lot. I learned I got to keep great people in my corner, which I am."
Now Rogers has been given a second chance. Bellator Fighting Championships came knocking and offered him a opportunity to rebuild his career and his image. Something he wasn't sure he'd receive.
"For a second I was thinking I wouldn't be on a stage like Bellator so when I got that phone call and that text saying they want to work with me and they want me on the team it was heaven," said Rogers. "It was a blessing.
"I couldn't tell you, and I don't want to tell you, but you can kind of guess how hellish my situation was.
"I feel like this is my second chance and I'm going to go out here and let the people know Brett is here to stay. I want everyone who is interested in MMA to know I'm going to work real hard, go for titles, and just always fight strong."
Rogers believes his problems stem, at least in part, from the fact that things came so easy to him early on in his career that he didn't know how to handle adversity when he faced it.
"For me I was so used to winning that the losses affected me because I thought I was unbeatable," said Rogers. "My mind was really stuck on the fact I can't lose.
"So when I lost to Fedor and then Alistair and Barnett it just kind of took a toll on me wondering if this is for me.
"I was ranked in the top 10 and then it was like what is going on. I didn't have coaches, life coaches of fighting, to tell me to just calm down, repiece yourself, and understand it's all just part of the game and always stay strong and keep a clear mind. When your mind isn't clear you're messed up.
"I understand now to just keep my cool and keep a great corner around me at all times. I should never ever have problems from here on out because a loss is a loss and a win is a win."
Standing in his way on his back to the top is Kevin "Concrete" Asplund (15-1), a former training partner and friend. The fight takes place tonight at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
"Kevin 'Concrete', I consider a training partner and then I consider him a friend," said Rogers. "That's the right order.
"This man opened his doors to me and my family during the hellish moments of my situation last summer. I looked up to him a lot when he opened his doors to me.
"I just mostly thought of him as a training partner and then I gave into the fact I thought he was trying to listen to me and understand who I am as a friend."
The two fighters had a falling out due to an incident involving the two fighters' wives and a house fire at Rogers' home.
"His wife and my wife were real cool, trying to be best of friends," said Rogers. "I always gave them the benefit of the doubt and open up to them. My wife had a ladies night when I was in my situation and couldn't be at my house.
"They had a drinking night and my wife called and put a woman on the phone and I didn't know who that was at the time. It turned out it was his wife and she got a little frustrated that I didn't recognize her voice.
"Next thing I know I got a phone call at four o'clock in the morning saying the porch outside my house was on fire due to his wife. Ever since then it's been downhill as far as our relationship."
Rogers feels as though this fight can put closure on the situation and that both men, and their families, can move on from here.
"I don't hate Kevin," he said. "I just dislike the fact he didn't man up to the situation and the way his wife handled her situation with my wife. I was leaving it up to the ladies, but I know overall if we would have seen each other in public drinking it would have been one and this is just preventing that situation.
"Why not just handle it like men in the cage and just be done with it?"
Rogers believes this fight will give the fans what they want to see and then he will be able to move forward to what really matters professionally - entering the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament for a big payday and a shot at Bellator Heavyweight Champion Cole "King Cole" Konrad.
"They don't have to wonder what's going to happen (tonight), said Rogers. "Everyone knows I'm going to come out here and try to get in his face. Point blank it's messed up what happened.
"I'm sorry at the end of the night, and he can say whatever, but most of that whatever I'm not trying to deal with.
"I have the tournament in my mind. That's what I want. That's $100,000, and right now I'm broke. I need to hurt whoever's standing in front of me to get that money plus that extra money that's going to be after the tournament. That's where my mind and heart is."
Rogers feels he's back to stay and after tonight the fans will see he's the fighter, and person, people cheered for back in 2009.
"I'm hungry," said Rogers. "They're going to see Brett 'Da Grim' from EliteXC. They're going to see Brett 'Da Grim' from Showtime early on.
"They're going to see that Brett. They're not going to see the Brett who is trying to repiece himself. I feel like I am there, I repieced myself, I did everything I needed to do to get back to this place.
"This is a second chance and I'm not trying to blow this. I'm going to fight real hard and hopefully I can win some of the fans back. If not they'll still be be talking about me."