Mercedes Benz mechanic looks to retool on "The Ultimate Fighter"

Demico Rogers, a heavyweight looking to make his mark in mixed martial arts, already drives the flash car.

Demico Rogers, a heavyweight looking to make his mark in mixed martial arts, already drives the flash car.

But it's a perk from his day job not fighting. The 27-year-old Rogers is a master auto technician who has spent the last eight years working for Barrier Motors Mercedes Benz in Bellevue, Wash., outside of Seattle.

"They give us really good lease deals," said Rogers, who drives a 2007 E-Class Merc.

The six-foot-four 255-pounder looked to retool another way recently, spending six weeks filming Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show which debuts Wednesday.

On a season that features a big, colourful array of pro fighters, former NFL players and onetime Internet street fighting sensation Kimbo Slice, Rogers was essentially the walk-on in the 16-man cast.

Just 4-0 as an amateur with no pro fights, he made the show after taking part in an open casting call in Seattle in April. Rogers was first in line, with a portfolio in hand. He had spent weeks practising everything from one-on-one interviews to showing off his skills in a tryout scenario.

"I got chosen the hard way. A lot of guys were pre-picked for the show .... I was a nobody, no one knew who I was," Rogers said. "I walked into tryouts with a pair of boxing gloves and some grappling shoes and went to work. I just earned my spot the only way I knew how."

He was summoned to Las Vegas for the next round of scrutiny and made the cast after passing all his medicals. Filming wrapped in early July.

The popular show takes a group of fighters and coops them up in a gilded cage - a large suburban Vegas home - for six weeks with no contact with the outside world apart from daily visits to the UFC training centre to work out and fight. Camera crews follow them 24-7.

Divided into two teams under the direction of former light-heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, the fighters square off until there are just two standing. The finalists meet at a later date with the winner awarded a contract to fight in the UFC.

Other fighters from the house usually join them in the UFC, although without the title of 'Ultimate Fighter' winner - a list that includes the likes of Evans, Forrest Griffin, Joe Stevenson and Michael Bisping.

The new season is the first to feature heavyweights since Season 2 when Evans - fighting above his normal weight class - emerged the winner.

Rogers says the show's producers did a good job selecting cast members from all walks of life. And apart from cramming super-sized fighters into twin-sized beds, he said living in the house was endurable.

"I just kind of mentally prepared myself going into it. And I didn't have any expectations going in, I was kind of like whatever happens happens," he said. "But to be honest having 15 other guys there going through the same thing as you, I personally never felt like I was at a breaking point. I always kept it pretty cool.

"Everything was pretty straightforward. They told you when you had to train and things like that. And pretty much everything goes at the house. They laid down the ground rules at the beginning and just kind of let us live for six weeks. So it wasn't like 'you can't do this, you can't do that, OK everyone do this, everyone do that.' It was pretty structured."

Although the novelty soon wore off.

"The house starts out really big, you kind of cruise around and (check out) all the rooms. But it got small fast with all those guys in there."

Rogers is a former high school wrestler and football player who attended WyoTech, a highly respected automotive school in Laramie, Wyo. He took up MMA a couple of years ago after returning to the gym and trying his hand at jiu-jitsu to get in shape.

He's so serious about his sport that he took a day out of his honeymoon in Hawaii to work out with pros Justin McCully and Kendall Grove.

"The honeymoon in Hawaii, that was a little tough . . . But she (wife Corry) understood, she understands how serious I take this and she wants me to succeed too," he said.

Rogers also took time out of his bachelor party trip to Las Vegas to go for a workout at the Xtreme Couture gym.

"That really helped my confidence, knowing with some hard work I could probably compete with these guys. . . . That sent me home in a real good mood, feeling real good about myself," he said.

Ivan Salaverry, a former UFC fighter with Canadian roots, has also worked with Rogers at his Seattle gym.

As for what he learned on the show, Rogers said the time flew.

"To be honest, it happened so fast that it wasn't like we got a ton of one-on-one time. It was more of getting the guy ready for the next fight. . . . I think the mental aspect was the best," he explained.

"Fighting under that pressure, there was no more than 50 people in the gym at any time but when we were fighting it felt like the most nerve-wracking thing ever . . . Fighting in front of (UFC president) Dana White and four or five of his closest friends is a lot more intimidating than fighting in front of a thousand of your friends.

"There was just so much pressure to fight well and to not buckle under the pressure. It was a great opportunity and definitely I come home like I have an advantage, especially over a lot of the local guys."

Viewers will have to wait and see how Rogers, who credits his employer for giving him the time off needed, does on the show. His lips are sealed, thanks to a very thorough confidentiality clause.

That hasn't stopped friends and colleagues asking about it, however.

"Yeah people are asking me every day but they're pretty respectful, it's nothing too bad," he said. "They understand that I can't say anything but they always throw kind of something out there to see if they can get a little hint or something like that. But everyone's been pretty cool."

 
 
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