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Bellator 196’s Roger Huerta vows to be the hunter - not the hunted - against Benson Henderson

Roger Huerta interview

Bellator 196: “Henderson vs. Huerta” comes to Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary, this Friday night (April 6, 2018), featuring a main event between Benson Henderson (24-8) and “El Matador” Roger Huerta (24-9-1, 1 NC) at the Lightweight limit of 155 pounds. Originally, the international mixed martial arts (MMA) event was going to be headlined by a James Gallagher (7-0) vs. Adam Borics (6-0), but Gallagher suffered a hand injury that shuffled Borics to co-main event status and caused both Huerta and Henderson to get promoted to the top spot.

Huerta has not been seen in the promotion since Bellator 33 in 2010, where he suffered a technical knockout loss by doctor’s stoppage to Eddie Alvarez. Before that, he had a .500 record in the promotion, but had come in after a long successful run in UFC, one that included him becoming the first MMA fighter to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Huerta left Bellator and moved on to ONE Fighting. He’s gone 2-3 in five fights there, but comes into the Henderson fight off back-to-back wins. recently spoke with to Huerta about his big fight in Budapest and how it feels to return to Bellator.

“It feels pretty cool. You know, in his time, Benson’s accomplished a lot. I wouldn’t say I accomplished as much in my career, but I think it should be a good fight against him when we face each other.”

There’s definitely more for Huerta to accomplish in MMA, especially given that his stint in ONE didn’t go the way he had hoped. That said, he admits he’s not sure what he would have done in their shoes.

“I wasn’t really happy, you know? You have to understand, I’ve never owned a promotion, and I don’t know the ins and outs of what it takes to run one of those. I just understood that I didn’t want to necessarily be a test tube for these guys, and I decided to move on with my career. Well, not necessarily my career, but my life. You know this is my life at the end of the day. I thought that coming back to the States would be right place for me (to be).”

The irony of that, of course, is that he’s immediately going international again for this fight.

“Yeah (*laughing*) ... it’s interesting, right? It is what it is. I like traveling so (it’s) another stamp on the old passport.”

The timing of the fight coming together couldn’t have been more ideal for Huerta or Bellator.

“It was (actually) me calling Scott (Coker) and asking, ‘Hey man -- are you guys interested in me or not?’ You know one of those kind of conversations. Basically, asking from the start, ‘Man I just need an opportunity, give me that one shot.’ And he was like, ‘Okay let me get back to you.’ I went for a run. When I got back I was met with missed calls and missed e-mails and I responded to them. They said, ‘Hey man we don’t know how good you are or what’s your weight, but something just came up - would you be willing to fight Benson Henderson?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I didn’t even talk about pay or anything. I just took it.”

Huerta decided that the best way to get what he wants going forward is with a one fight contract from Bellator. A win would give him negotiating leverage, while a loss might cost him a shot to stick around.

“I was offered a multi-fight contract, but I didn’t like the numbers in that contract. I value myself and I’m putting myself first if that makes sense ... and I think that the numbers need to be a bit higher. I’m putting my life on the line and hopefully these numbers can cover my fucking medical bills afterward.”

Huerta said that last part with a laugh, but he’s not joking. Unless the promotion you work for covers your health insurance, medical costs can eat up your paydays — sometimes even if they do.

“So, that’s the way I look at, you know? I’m gonna come in and give it my all (so) hey man I would like to get taken care of afterward, you know? The way things have gone for me these last couple of years, you know, I’m the one taking care of myself.”

No matter what the outcome might be, physically or financially, Huerta is looking forward to the fight.

“I see a lot of my old style in Benson’s style. I believe that I have evolved from my old style and I believe I will see a lot of things that he’s going to be doing out there way before he does them. I just think that I’m going to be beating him to the punch, and I’m gonna be looking for the TKO. I’m gonna be hunting. I’m not there to be hunted. I’m gonna be looking for it.”

Huerta also sought to dispel the notion there are any “holes in his game” that Henderson’s team can exploit.

“Well they’ve got to be optimistic as all of us in this world (do) you know? So that’s okay. They can have their opinions and I have mine. (*chuckling*) I think he’s got way more holes than I do.”

“El Matador” isn’t worrying about the weight cut to 155 pounds, either. While Henderson is packing meals and bringing them along, Huerta doesn’t need to bring much to prepare for the war in Budapest.

“I mean, I’m gonna take a few things, obviously I gotta get back to 155, but ... you know, there’s good things out there. There’s good nutritional things out there, not just in the States, you know what I’m saying?”

And that’s Roger Huerta for you — culinary explorer, multi-promotional fighter, and main eventer for Bellator 196. And you can watch him take on Henderson this Friday on Paramount Network, starting at 9 p.m. ET.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Henderson vs. Huerta” resides here at all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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