Huerta: I Don't Care If I Fight In The UFC

July 31, 2008

Neal Taflinger has an explosive piece in this month’s Fight! Magazine, where he gets Latin Lightweight Superstar Roger Huerta to open up about his displeasure with some of the financial practices of the UFC.

Huerta is one of a growing number of Zuffa-contracted fighter who feel that there is a disconnection between the company’s success and the way fighters are compensated. Huerta’s disillusionment with the UFC began when he did press tours for his employer in Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and London and received a $50 per diem for his troubles. It sounds like a a good deal until you factor in time away from training, friends, and family, days often stretch twelve hours or more, and an exchange rate of one UK pound for two American dollars. “Why do you think I don’t do PR for the UFC any more?” he asks.

He’s also unhappy with the terms of his current contract, but to Huerta, the press tours underscore a larger point: by and the 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.

Huerta’s expression hardens and becomes more animated as talk turns to endorsements. The common counter-argument for complaints about fighter pay is that fighters often make more from endorsements and sponsorships than they do for competing. But Huerta has soured on the system after receiving lowball offers from companies who expect fighters to jump at the chance to endorse products. He rails against a Fortune 500 company for offering a deal to build him as a spokesman that included unpaid work. “Are you serious?” Huerta ask. “I know Dale Earnhardt Jr isn’t doing appearances for free.”

“The truth is, I don’t really care if I fight in the UFC or somewhere else,” Huerta says. The fighter says he understands that Zuffa has to keep an eye on the bottom line, but he wants to work, “For a company that is as loyal to me as I am to them.”

The piece elaborates on Huerta’s contract status with the UFC. Roger has two fights left on his contract and if he beats Kenny Florian he could be held out of competition and be subject to the Zuffa Freeze-out, as used on Andre Arlovski and Brandon Vera during contract negotiations. Huerta has a back-up plan in case this tactic is used, as he can enroll in college and finish up his business management degree this fall at Augsburg College.

Fight! Magazine is available at a local bookstore or news stand near you. The entire article on Huerta is quite good and worth picking up if you get the chance.

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