Saul Rogers is a totally different professional mixed martial artist since his time on “The Ultimate Fighter” [TUF] season 22.
Four years after the show, he is fighting his second bout in his return to 145 lbs. Rogers is taking on Daniel Weichel in the first round of the featherweight grand prix tournament at Bellator 228 on Sept. 28. It’s his second fight with the promotion.
“I’ve changed so much inside and outside of the cage. All kinds of trials and tribulations, the dramas and stresses I had have molded me into the person I am now,” Rogers said. “I feel like the complete package for the first time in my life.”
The England native is competing for the second time as a featherweight since dropping down in his Bellator debut on May 4. He dominated all three rounds to earn a unanimous decision against Aiden Lee at Bellator Birmingham.
Hitting the mark
Rogers started his professional career as a featherweight and held titles for England-based promotions like Cage Conflict and Fight UK. He decided to move up to lightweight around 2012 after the weight cut became strenuous.
Rogers walked around at a minimum of 185 lbs., cutting nearly 40 lbs. to make the featherweight mark. It wasn’t until he fought at lightweight where he paid more attention to his body.
“When you’re younger and smashing everybody, you think you’re invincible. You don’t need to strengthen your body, you don’t need to put the fuel and all that kind of stuff,” Rogers said. “If you want to be sustainable and do well in this sport, you have to eat well, sleep well and adapt to the lifestyle.”
Rogers cleaned up his diet and walked around 165 lbs. when we decided to make his move back to featherweight. He followed a strict vegan and vegetarian diet while fighting in the lightweight division.
Rogers is eating meat again and can see the difference. He currently walks around as a welterweight in order to make featherweight.
“Anyone who knows me has never seen me out of shape, I don’t get heavy for some reason,” Rogers said. “I feel like I recover better on it [meat], it keeps me heavy and strong.”
Rogers’ rise on “The Ultimate Fighter” season 12 occurred in the lightweight division. He earned four-straight victories on his way to the finale against Artem Lobov. He never fought for a UFC contract after being cut before the scheduled bout. UFC President Dana White accused Rogers of lying on his visa application.
Rogers won two of his next three fights at lightweight before signing with Bellator in December 2017. His victory over Lee earned him a spot in the 16-man tournament.
Rogers entered a field consisting of former UFC talent, past and current Bellator champions. Rogers strongly believes his is right in the mix.
“A lot of veterans in there are not at the top of their game anymore and that’s how I see it. Does that mean they are going to be easy fights or a walkover? Absolutely not,” Rogers said. “I don’t want to sit somewhere around the top, I want to sit at the top of the pile.”
Weichel is Rogers first step to the top of the pile. Weichel is an 11-fight Bellator veteran and has fought champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freiere twice for the strap.
He enters the bout on his first, two-fight losing streak since 2008. The German native been near the top of the Bellator featherweight division since joining the promotion in2014. Weichel is the type of test Rogers is looking for.
“Daniel is one of the most experienced guys in the tournament, if not the most experienced,” Rogers said. “He’s no walkover and he will be durable, but with my skill set, my determination and my self belief, I feel I am too much for him.”
A new home
Rogers never anticipated fighting for a major promotion after his time on TUF. He had little interest in signing with any of the bigger promotions, stating he never “looked too much into it.” Rogers even fought all of his three post-TUF fights in Europe.
Rogers is finding a home in Bellator’s featherweight division. He plans to be there for quite some time.
“This year has been one of the happiest in my life,” Rogers said. “It’s nice being with a great promotion, seeing the opportunities and seeing my future, knowing all I have to do is go and take it.”