Roger Huerta is no longer a free agent. He has signed with Bellator Fighting Championships to compete in their season two lightweight tournament with the opportunity to face Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez if he wins out. From Bellator’s press release:
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.
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.”
To be honest, I was pretty surprised by the news. I figured Roger would either sign with Strikeforce to bolster their rather thin lightweight division or end up re-signing with the UFC. Apparently not. Huerta liked the idea that he could control his own destiny.
“Bellator provided me with a sense of security,” Huerta told Sherdog.com on Monday. “I control my own destiny in the tournament. The winner gets to face one of the best lightweight fighters in the world — that’s the goal. If I lose, then it’s my fault. It’s on me and I can deal with that.”
I’m sure it didn’t hurt either that Huerta stands to make $100,000 if he wins his three fights in the tournament. Of course, it’s entirely possible he could make that or more in the UFC over the course of three fights, especially with the Fight of the Night bonuses, but it’s hard to argue his competition in Bellator won’t be easier, at least during the actual tournament.
Like I said, not what I was expecting, but it seems like a good match. Bellator needs a few higher profile fighters that won’t break the bank and Huerta gets away from the politics that bothered him so much in the UFC and still gets the opportunity to make good money. Plus, it could get him in the cage with Eddie Alvarez which is a fight that’s great for everyone, especially the fans.
Image via Sherdog
Update: Josh Gross has more on Huerta’s contract. Specific details aren’t fully revealed, but it sounds like he’s getting more than the standard Bellator tournament contract.
Mere rumors of Huerta’s asking price — which, according to sources outside the fighter’s camp familiar with the negotiations, included a $250,000 signing bonus — was enough to keep Dream, Japan’s top promoter, from making an offer, said its U.S. representative, Mike Kogan.
However Bellator, a tournament-based organization that debuted in 2009 to strong reviews, was not put off by Huerta’s demands. Bjorn Rebney, the Chicago-based promotion’s CEO, declined to disclose the terms of his deal with Huerta, though they’re believed to be considerable.
“They gave him a lot of things that really made it enticing,” said Huerta’s manager Jeff Clark, who also serves as a consultant to Bellator. “I felt what they offered and what they came through with was fairly strong where it wouldn’t be matched.”
“It was a very easy decision to make after a very long and exhaustive negotiation with his management and attorneys,” Rebney said. “But it came through.”