ST. LOUIS -- There are only so many ways to deny wrongdoing in the face of speculation, and
With nipping media pushing and prodding, with opponents and rival promoters fueling the discussion, with a two-and-a-half-year absence from competition in the States coloring the issue, the man some people call "Ubereem" for his cartoonish figure promised vindication -- at which point "all the people that are talking can shut up."
You get the sense they won't, even if Overeem has in the week leading up to his first defense of the Strikeforce heavyweight belt, which the Dutchman captured to little fanfare after moving into the division in 2007. A dearth of opponents, a nagging hand injury and contractual commitments to other organizations led to a delay in his return to the U.S., and the conjecture that he had something to hide, so much so that the prevailing story heading into his fight Saturday against
"Everybody is complaining about it and talking about it," said
Rogers, he of the did-better-than-anyone-predicted performance against
"I love the gym," said Rogers, 29, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 280 pounds on a normal day. "I love to workout. I'm a big guy myself. I know I'm not going to blow up in that short amount of time. It's questionable to me. Hopefully the athletic commission resolves that."
At the recommendation of the California State Athletic Commission, Strikeforce CEO
"People are free to think whatever they want," said Overeem, who was clean after two previous tests in the U.S. "People are free to say whatever they want."
The discussion means little if Overeem can't keep his belt against Rogers, a power-punching nimble giant who has shown marked improvement with each outing.
"He performed really well against Fedor," said Overeem, who turns 30 on Monday. "He gave him, I would say, the fight of his life. I'm really prepared for anything that he'll throw at me."
Life has changed dramatically for Rogers, who not so long ago was changing tires at Wal-Mart. A 22-second knockout of
"People are just holding the Fedor loss against me," Rogers said. "People think I don't deserve [the fight with Overeem], so I'm feeling a lot of pressure to do anything to prove it."
Though Overeem's focus during the past 18 months was K-1, he did participate in three MMA bouts last year. Journeymen
"At the end of the day, he wants to fight in MMA and that's what his passion is all his about," said de Jong. "K-1 is nice. It was fun, an adventure, but MMA is what he's all about. He's very confident on his feet right now and this will be an advantage against an opponent like
The idea, said Overeem, is to land a shot at Emelianenko, whom the Strikeforce champion believes is being shielded from him.
"I've been challenging him in interviews and after fights," Overeem said of MMA's No. 1 heavyweight. "As far as obstacles, his management had been putting it off. It takes two to tango. We're just going to have to wait and see."
De Jong said if Overeem defeats Rogers, Strikeforce would like him to fight once more, possibly in July, before a pay-per-view bout against Emelianenko materializes this winter. That, of course, is contingent upon Emelianenko (32-1) besting
First things first for Overeem, including "blocking things out" like pesky reporters and their questions about steroids.
"There's been a lot criticism," he said.