Following a lengthy layoff, featherweight Saul Rogers returned to action this past May with a unanimous decision over Aiden Lee at Bellator Birmingham.
For Rogers the win was his first in nearly three years, and it helped secure him a spot in the upcoming Featherweight Grand Prix. Speaking to MMAWeekly.com during his final preparations for his first round bout versus Daniel Weichel, Rogers talked about his victory over Lee, his time off, and where his focus lays for the coming Grand Prix.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Saul, take us back to the win you picked up over Lee in May and tell us your thoughts on the fight and how you feel you performed out there.
Saul Rogers: I was hard on myself after the win. I was kind of sulking all because I didn’t the finish. But looking back in reflection, I’d been out the game for two years and two months, and I fought a guy who was an up and comer, a hungry kid, who had fought seven times in the time I’d been off, had fought for a world title in the time I’d been off, and I went out and dominated him pretty much start to finish every single round.
Looking back on reflection again I’m happy with that performance and more happy that it was enough to get me through to the Bellator Grand Prix, where I knew I should have been anyway.
MMAWeekly.com: How do you feel as a fighter in 2019 as opposed to the fighter you were before your break? Do you see a lot of difference in yourself now compared to then?
Saul Rogers: I see huge, huge, huge changes. I didn’t fight the last two years, but going back four years I feel like I’ve grown so much not only inside the cage, but outside of it too. My discipline is much tighter. My lifestyle is much tighter, and my mindset is much sharper, as well improved skills.
It’s not ideal having time off, but I feel like it all builds character, and in times like that you see what you’re made of, and it shows if you really do want what you want and if you’re prepared to go the extra mile to get what you want.
MMAWeekly.com: With an opportunity to be part of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix, how does it feel to finally have a chance to have consistency with your career after periods of inactivity over the last several years?
Saul Rogers: Honestly it’s been the best thing because if you look at my career it’s always been up and down like that; never to the extent to where I didn’t fight for two years; but I would fight here and fight there, and now I feel like this first time in my life I’m a real fighter.
People will think I’m crazy for saying that, I’ve beaten some of the best guys around, but in my mindset I still wasn’t there, I still wasn’t complete or I still wasn’t what I wanted to be, but at this point I now I feel like I’m more than ready to be a world champion. Fighting consistently for a major promotion I feel like a true fighter, I feel like a true mixed martial artist.
MMAWeekly.com: Tell us your thoughts on your first round Grand Prix match-up with Weichel (39-11) at Bellator 228 on September 28 in Inglewood, California.
Saul Rogers: He’s very technical on the feet, always pushes the pace and he always takes it to his opponent. He’s fought for the title. He’s the most experienced guy in the competition. I know it’s not going to be an easy fight. I know it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
I feel like my style matches up badly against his style. Daniel is a good grappler, a good wrestler, and a good striker, but I just feel like I have too much in every area. I mix it up so much different to the guys who he’s fought in the past. I feel like the way I put it together he’s going to have a hard time dealing with what I’m going to bring on September 28.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Saul. In closing, with the featherweight title and a million dollars on the line in the tournament, is it hard to not think too far ahead, or are you able to stay focused on one fight at a time?
Saul Rogers: The money is the last thing on my mind, honestly. All through this fight camp it has been the last thing on my mind. The belt has been the last thing on my mind. I know I’m going to be the world champion, and with that comes the money and comes all that other stuff, my legacy, but all I focus on is one fight at a time.
All the other stuff has not been a distraction to me one percent. All I’m solely focused on is the object that’s in front of me, the matter at hand, and the job I have to take care of.