British lightweight Saul 'The Hangman' Rogers believes that his fight to make it into the TUF house against Dutch hopeful Paulo Boer was one of the "worst" fights in terms of nerves that he has ever contested.
The SBG Mainline fighter has been considered one of the standout 155ers on the European scene over the last couple of years and the common feeling was that he was quite close to being offered a contract by the world's flagship promotion. Having committed his hopes to the UFC's reality platform as a route to the big stage, the Brit insists that he is quite content with the scenario now after some initial doubts.
"At the start I was hemming and hawing a bit because, like a lot of people, I felt like I was in a strong position to get a UFC contract without having to go through The Ultimate Fighter selection process," he explained. "But having been on the show, obviously only one episode has aired so far, but the media attention and the hype from the fans makes me feel like it's probably a better route to the UFC with all of the exposure that it gives you. I'm happy that I've been on the show."
Given the size of the European scene and the fewer professional promotions on the continent, a lot of the Team McGregor prospects would have been familiar with each other. Rogers claimed that he knew the vast majority of his European counterparts, but none of the American competitors.
"I knew the majority of the team from the European scene but I didn't have a clue about the American guys to be honest with you. Certainly with the Europeans, I had heard of most of the guys that were there and I actually know a couple of them quite well. The European scene is quite small though, you usually at least know someone who has fought another fighter on the scene. I knew what most of them were about in terms of styles and stuff."
One of the only men Rogers didn't know, Paulo Boer, ended up being his first test to get into the season's TUF House.
"With Paulo, I didn't really know much about that guy," he admitted. "One of the guys told me that he was a bit more of a striker, a bit more of a brawler. That was literally all I had to go off, but the opponent's style has never really made a difference to me. I've got things that I want to do in there so every time I just go in and try to implement my game plan. Focusing on what the other guy is good at or what he's going to try and do can hinder you, so in that respect it worked for me not knowing anything about Paolo."
Although 'The Hangman' managed to take a second round rear naked choke, he revealed that the pre-fight tension was at all time high in the TUF gym.
"You can ask anybody that's done it before, but that fight to get into the house was the worst, honestly. There was all the stuff beforehand and then there was loads of stuff on the day—Dana was there to talk to us and then Conor was there too—I couldn't help but be a little bit worried.
"Usually I'm not a worrier at all, I'm not too bad with the nerves and stuff like that, but this felt very different. I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish the guy. It was kind of bittersweet because I didn't really perform the way I wanted to with all the nerves, but I got the win so I can't really be unhappy."
Finally, Rogers echoed McGregor's sentiments when it comes to the disparity in the skill level between Team Europe and Team USA. According to the Englishman, opportunities for Europeans to get signed by UFC are not as frequent in comparison to American fighters, which makes him believe the only reason the majority of the Team USA proponents have not been signed is their lack of skill.
"Every guy on the show is a good fighter, don't get me wrong," stated Rogers. "Everyone is at a really good level, but I agree with what Conor said in the first episode, the European fighters have a tougher route to the UFC. I personally feel that's it's much tougher for the guys in Europe to attract the attention of the UFC, so I think the Europeans were all pretty much ready to be signed straight away.
"The guys from the US that haven't been signed by UFC, in the majority of cases they probably hadn't been offered a contract because they didn't have a high skill level. The European guys just haven't got the opportunities the Americans have and I feel that's the only reason why a lot of the guys on our team haven't been signed yet."