St Paul’s baddest heavyweight, Brett “Da Grim” Rogers (11-2), returns to the national stage tomorrow night on Showtime as he is set to face off against former UFC Heavyweight champion Josh Barnett (29-5) in the opening round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament.
Rogers was last seen nationally in Strikeforce a year ago when he faced heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem in what had to be a disappointing performance, a first round TKO loss that saw Rogers land only one punch according to CompuStrike.
Since then, Rogers has been focusing on training while waiting for another opportunity in the Strikeforce steel. He did travel up to Hallifax, Nova Scotia late last year to take on journeyman heavyweight Ruben Villareal for the W-1 promotion in a fight which saw Rogers victorious by unanimous decision.
Rogers has patiently been waiting for his chance to get back to Strikeforce as problems surrounding the licensing of Barnett have forced Strikeforce to delay this fight for months.
Barnett is a controversial figure in the MMA world and getting him licensed in the US has been a consistent problem for Strikeforce. Barnett has twice tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs, the first time in 2002 following his win over Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight title (which he was stripped of and never defend) and then again in 2009 leading up to a fight for the now defunct Affliction promotion.
That positive test contributed to the collapse of the Affliction promotion, as Barnett was scheduled to face Fedor Emelianenko on their third pay-per-view in August of 2009. Unfortunately the California State Athletic Commission announced they would not license Barnett for the fight just 10 days before it was set to take place, because Barnett had failed a pre-fight test for PEDs. With no main event the show was canceled and Affliction announced days later they would no longer be promoting MMA events.
Since then, Barnett’s attempts to get relicensed in the US has been a comedy of errors. He delayed his hearing to get relicensed by the CSAC three times and had a fourth one canceled when he did not appear with his lawyers. The next time Barnett appeared, but his lawyers did not.
Finally, Strikeforce was forced to commission shop the fight around the country, because California was not going to license Barnett, and most other commissions would not license Barnett until he cleared things up with the CSAC. Eventually the Texas State Athletic Commission agreed to sanction the fight (the same commission that allowed Antionio Margarito to box after being suspended for having loaded gloves in a fight in California) and the fight was set for tomorrow night.
Rogers is a couple of years younger (30 vs 33) has a five inch reach advantage and will be probably 20 pounds heavier than Barnett when they enter the cage tomorrow night. Barnett has the experience factor, but as we’ve seen from his contemporaries like Fedor and Couture, all these years of fighting have taken a toll on their bodies and their chins. Rogers has barely been touched in most of his fights, and has spent most of the last few years training at home, while Barnett has traveled the world fighting, doing pro wrestling and battling California for a license.
The fight will be the semi-main event tomorrow, leading up to another heavyweight tournament battle between Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werum (the title is not on the line). The winner of Barnett-Rogers will face Sergei Kharitonov sometime later this year.
Also on the card is former St Paul native Jeff Monson, as he takes on Daniel Cormier in a preliminary bout.
The main card starts at 9 p.m. central time and airs on Showtime live from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Tx.