An athlete just entering his prime walks away from the sport to pursue other endeavors. Familiar story, right? Not really. It's difficult to find a scenario simliar to what UFC fighter Roger Huerta just did. Huerta (pictured on the left) will not be signing a new contract with the organization. He's chosen to pursue his acting career and start writing a book about his upbringing.
It's not really comparable to throw out names like Barry Sanders, Jim Brown or Sandy Koufax. They all retired at about the 75-percent mark of their careers but had already established themselves as all-time greats. Frankly a 25-year-old, who is 20-2-1 with a 6-1 mark in the UFC walking away is a bit bizarre. Huerta told MMAJunkie that he hasn't lost any of his passion for the sport:
"I’ve been fighting my all life. It’s in me. It’s always been in me. I’ve been fighting for everything I’ve gotten. I’ve been fighting forever. So maybe let’s just put this on hold for awhile. That’s kind of where I’m at.”
Many think that this is just a short break before Huerta begs to come back to the cage. Don't be so sure. What happens if he does become a big earner in the entertainment industry? Huerta couldn't be Mario Lopez or Mark McGrath?
The bottom line here is money and Huerta more than hinted at that with his comments to Fight! Magazine back in August. As one of the few Spanish speaking fighters, Huerta was asked to do a ton of promotional work for the UFC. He claimed that he only received $50 a day per diem working on several road tours:
"Why do you think I don’t do PR for the UFC any more? Are you serious? I know Dale Earnhardt Jr isn’t doing appearances for free."
Fight! Magazine wrote:
He’s also unhappy with the terms of his current contract, but to Huerta, the press tours underscore a larger point: by and large, Zuffa does not treat its contracted fighters with sufficient loyalty or respect. He argues that many UFC fighters barely make enough to cover their training expenses. He brings up teammate Keith Jardine repeatedly, incensed that a main event fighter is working for ten and ten- $10k to show and 10k to win — while his opponent regularly makes ten times as much.
In that UFC 84 fight, Jardine made $10,000 and his opponent Wanderlei Silva made $150,000.
Huerta laid down the gauntlet and foreshadowed his next move:
"The truth is, I don’t really care if I fight in the UFC or somewhere else. For a company that is as loyal to me as I am to them."
After his loss at UFC 87 Huerta backpedaled a bit but made it clear he wasn't married to the UFC:
"I never bashed the UFC. All I was saying in a financial point of view or a retirement plan, I can only do this for so long. You can't argue about this, if another company offers you something better you would do that. It's the logical thing to do."
Huerta's salary at UFC 87 was not made public but one would assume it was around $20,000-$24,000. He received $19,000 to show and $19,000 to win for his previous fight at The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale. At UFC 74, he got a total of $34,000. For the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale, he banked $24,000. His salary for UFC 69 was never released by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation. At UFC 67, he got a total of $12,000. Starting with UFC 67 and closing with the TUF 6 Finale, Huerta fought five times in 2007 and earned approximately $120,000-$130,000 on the books. It's unknown if he was handed sizable amounts in bonuses or promotional deals away from the cage. Can Huerta make that amount of money in television and movies without putting in all the training time and risking his face being punched in? Sounds like it.
From a promotional standpoint, Huerta is a significant loss to the UFC. Cain Velasquez and Efrain Escudero currently make up the bulk of Spanish speaking fighters as the organization tries to grab a bigger share of the Latino fight fan market. From a roster standpoint, the UFC is so deep at 155 lbs. and there are so many elite lightweights outside the organization who can be added, Huerta won't be missed at all.
Photo via CombatLifestyle