Ultimate Warrior Fighting: The Rise and Fall of Roger Huerta

Vince Carey@@vcareymmaContributor INovember 26, 2011

On November 26, Roger Huerta will make his return to MMA, fighting for the first time in over a year.

His last fight at Bellator 33 was a huge disappointment both to Huerta himself and to fight fans, who had considered him one of the first opponents in a long time who could compete with then champion Eddie Alvarez.

While the fight was scheduled as a three-round non-title fight, Huerta was still a well known and talented fighter, someone who had hit a rough patch in his last few fights but was to be considered a legitimate threat to Bellator’s 155-pound champion.

When the fight started it was obvious that Alvarez was the far superior fighter. He beat up an outmatched Huerta badly, forcing the doctor to stop the fight between the second and third rounds.

The loss ended up being “El Matador’s” final appearance under the Bellator banner, knocking off the national stage and back to the regional scene where he got his start.

It was somewhat shocking to see how quickly Huerta’s star had fallen.

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He was once considered a future champion in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division, winning his first six fights in the organization and earning marquee wins over Leonard Garcia and Clay Guida. The Garcia fight in particular earned him a ton of fans and a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The SI cover turned out to be both a blessing and a curse for the young fighter. Huerta was the first mixed martial artist to ever be featured on the cover of SI, and the exposure may have led to him being a bit overrated by fans.

Huerta barely snuck by Clay Guida in his first-ever UFC main event at the Ultimate Fighter 6 finale, and seemed primed to make his push for a UFC title. His next fight against Kenny Florian at UFC 87 was an obvious title eliminator, and if Huerta could pull off a win he would be considered a legitimate threat to BJ Penn.

However it was evident fairly quickly that Huerta didn’t belong in the same cage as a fighter with Florian’s skill set, and he was defeated rather easily, losing a unanimous decision.

Following the loss to Florian, Huerta and the UFC got into a hostile negotiation over Roger’s contract, with the UFC coming under the impression that Huerta was asking for more money than he was worth.

By the time Huerta actually stepped into the Octagon again, over a year after his last fight, it was almost common knowledge that it would be his last fight under the UFC banner.

Huerta put on a strong performance against Top 5 lightweight Gray Maynard in the bout, but ended up on the wrong end of a split decision, hurting his career and his hopes of leveraging the UFC into a better deal in the process.

Suddenly, Huerta was the hottest free agent in MMA, and it seemed like the upstart Bellator promotion had struck gold when they signed him to a contract to compete in their second lightweight tournament, as they would finally have a poster boy for their organization.

Once again, Huerta’s star came crashing down and he went a meager 1-2 in the promotion before he left to try and pick up the pieces.

Less than 24 hours from his return to the cage at an Ultimate Warrior Fighting event, Huerta will look to get back into the win column against former UFC bad boy Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver, and with a win he may finally be able to start working to rebuild his career.