Josh Gross
Friday October 9th, 2009

A month out from the most important fight of Brett Rogers' mixed martial arts career, the undefeated heavyweight traveled west with Mike Reilly, his manager and trainer, to "refocus" before the training homestretch for Fedor Emelianenko.

At first glance, cruising around in a limo for a week would appear to be more of distraction than a way of concentrating on defeating the top heavyweight. But Rogers, who comes off relaxed and confident in advance of his Nov. 7 fight on CBS says time spent in Southern California has been nothing but positive.

Rogers feels like he's in best shape of his life -- physically and mentally. When he and Reilly return to Minneapolis next week, they'll hit the reset button and move into what Reilly called the "get mean" stage of training. Now, they say, they have a better understanding of what it takes to give Emelianenko (30-1) a real fight, something many pundits and fans don't believe Rogers (10-0) is capable of.

Both the fighter and trainer actively sought out opinions and suggestions during their week here. They bounced around gyms, working with heavier fighters than Rogers has access to back home. And, not surprisingly, Josh Barnett -- who was scheduled to fight Emelianenko in early August before being forced out after testing positive for steroids in a pre-bout exam -- offered the most interesting take on fighting the Russian champion.

"What Fedor's looking for isn't a specific technique or type of takedown," Barnett told Reilly. "Fedor is looking for control. And if he's not in control he's going to want to disengage and be in control."

So how does a challenger who, less than a year ago made rent by changing tires at Sam's Club, hold sway over a champion who hasn't relinquished control in nearly a decade?

"If I allow him the chance to do what he wants to do, then he might dominate," Rogers said. "But my game plan is to dominate, keep him frustrated, keep him moving back, cutting angles off. Most importantly give him the heat. I'm coming out there to knock him out. I'm definitely testing that chin."

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Rogers' nine knockouts in 10 fights confirm that anything is possible, even against the masterful Emelianenko. After all, it was four years ago that Rogers, raised in the infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, walked into Reilly's gym in a converted garage intent on testing himself in MMA.

He didn't think he would, but Rogers loved what he found. By his third fight, Rogers talked about wanting to be the best. Like most trainers, Reilly had heard it before. Yet in Rogers, he had someone willing to listen and learn and act like he didn't know everything -- mainly because he didn't.

"I've never trained with any other athlete who is able to suspend his ego in practice as much as Brett does," Reilly said. "He's almost like he's watching people when he's training as opposed to competing against them. It's a phenomenal gift to have."

With the support of his wife of five years who also rose out of Cabrini-Green, Rogers has a partner who balances supporting his vision of being the best with telling him it like it is, even if he doesn't always like what Tiuana Rogers has to say.

Though the fighter is reticent to admit Nov. 7 could mark his one and only shot at professional greatness, Rogers' life has already changed for the better. He owns a home, and will probably buy another. Money is no longer the predominant concern, though squabbles between Reilly and Ken Pavia, who claims a valid managerial contract with the fighter, linger in the air. Now it's about finishing something giant, something kids changing radials at Sam's Club only do in screenplays.

"I do want that position," Rogers said. "I do have that chip on my shoulder that, 'Hey, if I'm the best, I should never have a problem.' So many things come with that. I want it all."

He'll get all he can handle against the 33-year-old Emelianenko.

"He's definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame," Reilly said in praising the Russian. "But you know what? He's not going to be there alone. And right now there's a 28-year-old kid who's fighting to have his bust in there as well, and is willing to step up and beat him."

In the wake of a decision last weekend in Fairfax, Va., that drew the ire of fans and media alike, the Virginia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Program has initiated an investigation into a fight that saw Mike Easton retain his UWC bantamweight title on points over Chase Beebe.

Countering a report by Sherdog.com on Thursday that the result had been changed from a split-decision victory for Easton to a "no decision," Mary Broz-Vaughan, the Communications Director for the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, which oversees the athletic program, told SI.com a change cannot be made until the state's investigation is complete.

Because of the controversy and subsequent investigation initiated Monday by the commission's executive director D.L. Holland, results of the fight have not been submitted to the Association of Boxing record keepers. Still, Easton's victory will stand until the investigation is concluded, which would provide an opportunity for both fighters to get on the record. Beebe told SI.com earlier this week that he intended on filing a complaint, something Broz-Vaughan indicated could speed up the process.

According to Virginia regulations, the department has three avenues to alter a decision: 1) wrongful and illegal collusion; 2) an error in scorekeeping; 3) a violation of the regulations that affect fairness (for example a judge rendering a decision on criteria not in keeping with specified regulations).

It appears option No. 3 is the focus of the investigation.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.