Close your eyes and meditate for a moment upon Roger Huerta. You probably picture a brown-haired Latin American heartthrob who started a blazing MMA career 20-1-1. He did some acting, then suddenly and improbably lost seven of his last eight fights. He even beat down a former Longhorns linebacker in a YouTube street fight just two months before his October 2010 loss to Eddie Alvarez. Two fights later, he was knocked out for the first time in his career, a soccer kick from Zorobabel Moreira. Then he disappeared.
Huerta attended Augsburg College in my home town. I remember seeing him standing outside a Noodles and Company on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank in 2007. I didn’t know it then, but that was Roger at his peak, just months before everything started changing.
I don’t know if I would recognize him now. His appropriately shaved head gives him the look of a monk who is emerging from a two-year vow of silence.
“I took two years off because I needed to slow things down,” he said in this interview with WHOATV. “I wasn’t properly training. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t doing the right things I should be doing as an athlete, as a professional fighter. And I wasn’t really respecting myself enough for me to go into a full training camp and get ready for these fights at that high level.”
But the time for seclusion is over, and he is ready to return to MMA civilization.
“When I took my time off . . . I became a full-time coach, and I really gave 150% to these guys, to this gym, to this program here . . . that’s what kept me out of the loop. It allowed me to basically heal my body. But one thing lead to another, because of those people, at the same time, it got me motivated and got me hungry, wanting to compete at that high level.”
In the rest of the video, Huerta muses about things like the toughness of opponent Pat Curran, and the temptation to dwell on the past. But most importantly, his two-year vow of MMA silence is over. He fights Christian Holley tomorrow at ONE FC 19 in Dubai. Yes, Roger is ready to talk again. And we can finally hear his faint hello crackling through a walkie talkie from the jungles just outside Phuket.
Roger, Huerta. We hear you. Your improbable winning streak may be over, but you aren’t quite out.