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Roger Huerta signs with Bellator Fighting Championships

CHICAGO, Ill. (March 15, 2010) Roger Huerta, the top free agent in MMA and one of the sport’s brightest young stars, announced today that he has signed an exclusive contract with Bellator Fighting Championships and will compete in the promotion’s upcoming Season 2 lightweight tournament.

The 26-year-old Huerta (20-3-1) comes to Bellator in the prime of his career after a 3½-year run in the UFC, where he rose to international prominence with wins over top talents like Clay Guida, Leonard Garcia and John Halverson and became the first MMA fighter ever to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Huerta, also known as “El Matador,” joins a well-rounded 155 lbs. tournament field that also includes Season 1 runner-up Toby Imada, former Olympian Ferrid Kheder, undefeated Canadian phenom Mike Ricci, European stalwart Janne Tulirinta, the undefeated Chad Hinton and former All-American wrestler Carey Vanier. Each tournament fight will be broadcast live in prime time on FOX Sports Net every Thursday night beginning April 8th and replayed in special highlight shows on NBC and Telemundo every Saturday night beginning April 10th.

If Huerta can win the April-May-June lightweight tournament, he would win the chance to challenge the world’s No. 2-rated lightweight and reigning Bellator World Champion Eddie Alvarez in a title bout this fall.

“The chance to be a part of this year’s Bellator tournament was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up,” Huerta said. “I think Bellator is the next big thing in this sport. I love the tournament format and the awesome talent that they have at 155 will give me a chance to prove myself as one of the top lightweights in the world.”

Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney, meanwhile, called Huerta “one of the most exciting and accomplished lightweights in the world.”

“Roger is truly a young man who has defied the odds to achieve greatness,” Rebney said.   “Adding Roger to our 155 division and tournament is a great signing for Bellator that provides us the ability to showcase him on national television upwards of three times before summer (provided he wins). His personal story is inspirational.  He has not had an easy road, but has fought hard and persevered.  It’s hard not to root for a guy who has triumphed over adversity like he has.”

Huerta suffered through a heartbreakingly difficult childhood. He was born in Los Angeles to Lydia and Rogelio Huerta, but the couple’s rocky relationship and struggles with substance abuse and mental illness soon began to take a toll on their son.

When Roger was around 5 years old, Lydia discovered that Rogelio was having an affair and took out her anger on Roger, subjecting him to emotional abuse and regular beatings that left him covered in bruises. Soon, this was discovered by his teachers and Roger was placed in a foster home.

Despite being stripped of custody, Lydia somehow managed to flee with her son to her native El Salvador, where she lived with Roger for more than a year as that country was embroiled a brutal civil war. Eventually she returned with Roger to the U.S. and dropped him at Rogelio’s house in Dallas. Roger never saw his mother again, but his troubles were far from over.

Over the next six years, he bounced back and forth between his father’s drug-infested house in Texas – where he was again subjected to regular beatings, this time at the hands of his father’s new wife—and Mexico, where he lived with his impoverished grandparents and was forced to sell picture frames and rosaries on the streets for hours a day.

At around the age of 12, he was kicked out of father’s house and found himself homeless, sleeping on rooftops and in alleyways and running with a notorious local youth gang. He stayed in school, though—mostly for the free breakfast and lunch.

By high school, he had left the gang and began living with the families of classmates in Austin, Texas. He became one of his school’s most popular students, excelled at sports (particularly wrestling), and, with the help of his English teacher, Jo Ramirez and his wrestling coach Bryan Ashford, won a wrestling scholarship from Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

It didn’t take Huerta long, though, to realize that his brawler-style fighting skills were better suited for the cage. He became fascinated with MMA after watching an Augsburg teammate’s amateur fight and soon began training with former UFC middleweight champion Dave Menne.

He took his first professional fight in 2003 while still a teenager, just a few months after he was legally adopted by Ramirez, the English teacher who helped change his life. She will be among the millions watching when Roger makes his Bellator debut next month.

“My one and only goal right now is getting through the lightweight tournament,” Huerta said. “I’m in the best shape of my life and I just can’t wait to get back in the cage. I see nothing but good things to come for me and for Bellator.”

For more information, visit Bellator.com, follow Bellator on Twitter @BellatorMMA or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Bellator.

About Bellator Fighting Championships

Bellator Fighting Championships is a Mixed Martial Arts promotional company with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago.  Bellator’s founder/CEO, Bjorn Rebney, is an experienced fighting sports and entertainment professional with a deep commitment to the purity and integrity of the sport of MMA and its athletes.  Bellator Fighting Championships’ executive team is comprised of top industry professionals in the areas of live event production, television production, fighter relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations.

9 COMMENTS
  • fanoftna33 says:

    Great news for fans of the sport as Huerta always puts on a hell of a show and is just about impossiable to submit.

  • Dufresne says:

    I never knew Huerta’s backstory before. It’s incredible how well he has done with literally nothing.

  • KTru says:

    Strikeforce needed Huerta to bolster their LW division. It’s clear to me that Roger has been looking for respect after the UFC put him on the shelf for so long. Good for him that he is not in MMA for money. Surely SF and UFC could pay more, but he wants exposure and a title shot.

    if Maynard could not submit him with that kimura, Huerta can’t be submitted

  • nate says:

    i predict huerta & ricci in the tourney finale with the winner facing alvarez obviously. but a damn good lineup this year. DAMN good!

  • hindsightufuk says:

    KTru: Good for him that he is not in MMA for money. Surely SF and UFC could pay more, but he wants exposure and a title shot. if Maynard could not submit him with that kimura, Huerta can’t be submitted  (Quote)

    that was my first thought, pretty sure he would have made a fortune with Strikeforce, glad he signed with Bellator, shows he’s serious about being a fighter.

    This season is gonna be so much fun!

  • Rece Rock says:

    Aquiring El matador is just another solid move by BFC – both the fighter and the promotion will gain from this. I think after this season more & more fans will be behind BFC and the promotions success will be evident

  • blue says:

    I hope Bellator comes to my local high school gymnasium so I can watch some Bellator fights!

  • Rece Rock says:

    Blue-
    Umm… BFC is a small promotion but they are working with larger venues than your local HS…?? There first show this season is at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in FL- matter of fact BFC is working with the owners of Madison Square Garden and are securing dates at venues they own in Chicago and Boston…. BFC will most likely be the first MMA promotion to fight in MSG once legislation passes in NYC… this time next year i think we see BFC in SF’s position ( but with a better game plan and goal) and SF will be slowly sinking into obscurity.

  • Dufresne says:

    KTru: It’s clear to me that Roger has been looking for respect after the UFC put him on the shelf for so long.

    I was under the impression that one of the main reasons that Huerta didn’t fight for such a long time is because he was focused on his acting career. Although when he did come back it seemed like the UFC wanted to make him pay for his absence an announcement that he was planning on leaving the UFC at the end of his contract. Coming back to face Florian and then Maynard (which he almost won) isn’t an easy task for anyone.

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