It was 2007 and Roger Huerta was the face of mixed-martial-arts. It happened when a little magazine known as “Sports Illustrated” plastered Huerta on its cover showcasing the young Californian. Huerta was twenty-four and was ready to take the MMA world by storm.
Three years later, Huerta heads to Boston on Thursday May 6th with Bellator Fighting Championships, in the position of trying to prove himself to fight fans.
After Huerta, then with the UFC, helped shatter the stigma that MMA was some sort of “human cock fighting” with the SI cover and story, his success matched his notoriety. He won back-to-back fights by TKO versus Doug Evans and Alberto Crane, and then choked out UFC fan favorite Clay Guida with a rear naked choke.
Huerta had won his first six fights and was experiencing a meteoric rise. And then, it all changed.
The popular fighter began to be seen as a cover boy who desired movie roles instead of fights. After losing to Kenny Florian via unanimous decision, Huerta further alienated “diehard” MMA fans by announcing in January of 2009 that he was going to take a hiatus from fighting to pursue his acting career.
Eight months later, in September of 2009, Huerta would complete his contractual obligations by fighting Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 19. Many critics figured that Huerta’s heart wasn’t truly into it and wondered if he’d show up mentally. Huerta did just that, battling back and forth, ultimately losing a split decision.
Now after several months of rumors and tweets, Huerta prepares to fight for a second time with the up and coming Bellator Fighting Championships. Off the heels of a kneebar submission on Chad Hinton, he readies for Pat Curran at Bellator 17. If Huerta wins in Boston, he moves on in the Lightweight Tournament with his eye on a title fight against current Champion Eddie Alvarez.
Fans and critics alike will be watching, as Huerta aims at not only the potential super fight with Alavarez, but also to finally dispel the notion that he fights for the popularity and not the love.
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