It sounds like Roger Huerta got what he wanted: money and respect. Just as he was entering his prime, Huerta did what UFC fighters are generally unable to, and that's push back at management. He complained about lack of compensation for all the promotional work he did between fights, which included basically being the Latino spokesperson for the company. Then he did the unheard of, basically walking and waiting out the non-compete on his contract. Bellator stepped up and apparently paid big money. SI.com's Josh Gross reported the rumored numbers were pretty lofty:
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.
"This is MMA, not the NFL," Kogan said.
It's unknown whether Bellator met those demands but the young promotion, airing this season on Fox Sports Net, decided to roll the dice.
"They gave him a lot of things that really made it enticing," said Huerta's manager, Jeff Clark. "I felt what they offered and what they came through with was fairly strong where it wouldn't be matched."
There's risk on both sides. If Huerta loses at any point before the lightweight tournament finale his reputation would take a hit, and Bellator may have wasted a good chunk of change. Huerta's manager Jeff Clark said the fighter was willing to take the chance:
"Roger and I spoke about it a lot," said Clark. "I said he needs to understand that going with Bellator was more risk and more reward, by far. We're going into a tournament format. Roger has to prove himself every time. There could be that sleeper guy that jumps up. I know the fight world. When you have guys fighting a name, they throw it all on the line because they know they have a chance to make a name for themselves. Hell, yeah, it's risky."
Huerta's journey toward a potential fight against Eddie Alvarez and a $100,000 bonus starts Thursday night in Hollywood, Fla. Bellator's Season 2 debut is airing nationally on Fox Sport Net affiliates.
Huerta (20-3-1, 6-2 UFC) and his opponent Chad Hinton (6-0) both made weight. The card also features DREAM veteran and Olympic level Greco Roman wrestler Joe Warren, Affliction and EliteXC veteran Bao Quach and "Ultimate Fighter" veteran Joe Duarte.