Alright guys…I appreciate all the emails–Tweets–facebook messages–and phone calls asking about Roger Huerta training at a new gym while he is here in Phuket…instead of answering each and everyone—I figured the easiest way would be to put up a blog entry.
I still remember when Tiger Muay Thai first attracted UFC veteran Roger Huerta to the gym at the end of 2009. After winning 5 fights in a row with the UFC, and making the cover of Sports Illustrated…he got involved in a hard contract negotiation with Zuffa, the company that controls the UFC. Unable to come to terms with a new deal–the UFC gave him two tough fights where he lost back to back bouts against now Featherweight Kenny Florian and LW Contender Gray Maynard.
Visiting my family and friends in the states, a representative from NCFC fighter Management named Molly Hessel contacted me about arranging a training trip for Huerta and his long time training partner Dave Menne. Huerta, suffering a disappointing 2 fight losing streak was planing on traveling to Thailand for the first time in an effort to improve his striking skills while his management team negotiated with multiple fight promotions on his behalf. Molly wanted to make sure Huerta would be looked after and well taken care of during his International trip.
Arranging for Huerta to receive the ‘VIP’ treatment from Tiger Muay Thai, I ensured both Huerta and Menne had a free place of their own to stay at during the training trip, and made sure the gym took care of them while they were away from family and friends.
Huerta instantly developed a relationship with many of the employees and friends of TMT, as they showed him where to eat–where to party–which trainers to learn from…basically taking him into the TMT family and ensuring he fell in love with Thailand and the Thai culture.
Immediately following his first trip to Thailand, Huerta signed a contract with the Latin based promotion Bellator. Facing a tough prospect named Chad Hinton, Huerta defeated him in the third round via kneebar submission, in a bout that was tougher than expected. In his second fight for Bellator, Huerta faced off against Chicago Featherweight Pat Curran, losing a closely contested decision, essentially eliminating him from the tournament structure.
Following the fight with Pat Curran, Huerta returned back to Thailand. Looking to help Huerta continue progressing his standup and to get back on the winning side of things, TMT once again took care of his housing, and provided him with free VIP training, and 1 on 1 privates with our top trainers. Huerta and Tiger Muay Thai shared a mutually beneficial relationship as he was essentially able to live for free while training with some of the world’s top instructors at no cost–while the gym received the marketing of having him call Tiger Muay Thai ‘home’ when he was in Asia.
Huerta became one of the most liked fighters at the gym by establishing himself in the TMT family. I was really impressed when he offered to donate two private 1 on 1 lessons for the ‘Save Tuptim’ auction held at the BBQ Beatdown.
Heading back to the states, Huerta was granted the opportunity of a lifetime when Pat Curran suffered an injury while training for a bout against Bellator Champion Eddie Alvarez. Looking for a replacement, and wanting to promote the ‘Superfight’ of Latino Stars Eddie Alvarez Vs. Roger Huerta, Bellator promoted a non-title fight, and allowed Huerta to step in for the injured Curran. Following a hard fought 2 round bout, Huerta suffered a TKO loss, sustaining a fractured orbital bone in the process.
Following the disappointing defeat Huerta headed back to Thailand to get away from the stress of the fight industry. Allowing his face to fuse back together, Huerta trained 1 on 1 with Kru Yod. In exchange for a 2 hour seminar by Huerta, TMT again rolled out the red carpet providing him with free housing and VIP training at no cost. The loss to Alvarez came at a difficult time for Huerta, as his record fell to 1-4 in his last 5 fights. Taking some time off to evaluate what he wanted to do in his Career, Huerta got a chance to enjoy some of the joys of Thailand–developing a relationship with frequent Phuket visitor Mike Swick.
After another extended trip in Thailand, Huerta headed back to the states for a seminar tour and to visit friends and family.
Heading back to the land of smiles earlier this year, Huerta and Swick returned to Tiger Muay Thai, as Swick was looking to jump start his training camp for the UFC RIO which is getting set to air next weekend.
Receiving an email from mutual friends–The gym was informed that both Swick and Huerta were working on a new business project and would be opening up a Muay Thai and MMA training facility in Phuket Thailand.
….Having been in the fight game a long time–I wasn’t overly surprised that Swick and Huerta were interested in opening a gym of their own. Truth be told, Swick unsuccessfully tried to buy Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Phuket from my partner prior to me making the Ultimate Fighter reality show.
A fighters career only lasts for so long, and then we have to start looking at other opportunities to provide for our families. As a company, the immediate concern for TMT was that Huerta had lived and trained at the gym for about 12 months and that they were going to recruit our top trainers to their new facility.
Calling a meeting with Swick and Huerta we were promised, that was not their intention, and that they had plans on ‘informing TMT’ of their new business project once the plans became a bit more certain. Still needing a location to jump start his training camp for UFC RIO, Swick and TMT agreed to let him train at Tiger while he was in Phuket.
Returning to Thailand this week, Huerta has decided that Tiger Muay Thai isn’t a comfortable fit for him anymore. Going 1-2 since training at Tiger, and looking to shake up his training partners, Huerta has decided to prepare for a rumored Oct. bout at 170lbs, with the gym down the road.
Having ran the MMA program at Tiger Muay Thai since 2007, I’ve never really had the opportunity spar or grapple with Huerta. While at Tiger Muay Thai he has trained only in private 1 on 1 sessions with the Thai instructors–and hasn’t mixed in with any of the other MMA fighters we’ve had come through the facility (I.E. Brian Ebersole, Muhsin Corbbrey, JJ Ambrose).
It’s disappointing that Huerta no longer feels welcome in a gym where he lived and trained free during a 12 month period…however, I’m sure I speak for the entire team when I say we wish him the best of luck with his training camp–and hope his new gym is a success. Moving forward, we are happy with the marketing we were able to get during his time at the gym…my only regret is that the MMA team at TMT didn’t get a chance to work with Roger.
After finishing a year-long stint in jail on an assault charge former TUF star Jon 'War Machine' Koppenhaver has a busy fight schedule.
His first bout back is vs. fellow former TUF competitor Gideon Ray,on October 15th in Chicago, IL.
On November 26th War Machine faces an even bigger challenge, when he takes on Roger Huerta in Texas.