Bellator Fighting Championships held a press conference today to announce the signing of lightweight fighter Roger “El Matador” Huerta (20-3-1). Huerta will compete in Bellator’s eight-man 155 lb. tournament, and his first fight will take place at their season opener at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. on April 8.
Huerta said, “There was no hard feelings with the UFC.. and I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for them.” However, the deciding factor for Huerta to sign with Bellator seemed to be their tournament format which would allow him to fight up to four times this year as long as he keeps winning.
Huerta arrived in the UFC in 2006 and defeated Jason Dent by unanimous decision. The MMA fans began to really take notice of Huerta in 2007 when he fought five times and defeated Leonard Garcia, Alberto Crane, and Clay Guida, among others. It was also the year, he became the first, and so far only, MMA fighter to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
After winning his first six fights in the UFC, Huerta dropped a unanimous decision to Kenny Florian in 2008, and then lost a split decision in his next bout to Gray Maynard in 2009. Huerta went from fighting five times in 2007, to fighting just once in 2008, and then once again in 2009.
Now after spending the last few months concentrating on movie projects and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mickey Rourke, Huerta is hungry to get back inside the cage. The loss to Gray Maynard in his last fight has not been an easy pill to swallow for Huerta. And the fact that Maynard almost broke his arm in a submission hold seems to have re-ignited his competitive spirit.
Huerta believes he is being given another chance to prove himself. “I need to fight. I’m hungry. Winning this tournament will give me a shot at the title against Eddie Alvarez… I honestly believe it’s a second chance for me as a fighter and MMA athlete. ”
Bellator’s catch phrase is “control your destiny.” They are the words that come up again and again when asked what sets them apart, or why a fighter chose to sign with them. On paper, every fighter has the same opportunity to win the tournament and take home the $100,000 grand prize. Fighters will not have to drop to their knees and beg for title shots, all they have to do is keep winning.