Roger Huerta is back on the market.
The UFC lightweight has entered into the matching period of his recently completed contract with the promotion, allowing the fighter’s management to field offers outside the UFC.
“We’re free to negotiate with other organizations now, but the UFC has the right to match (any offer),” Huerta’s manager, Jeff Clark, of NCFC Management told Sherdog.com on Monday.
Standard UFC contracts include a clause that allows the promotion to match any offer made by a rival promotion for up to one year.
When asked if he and the fighter had started negotiations with the UFC, Strikeforce, and other promotions, Clark answered that, “we’ve had a lot of interest from different parties.” Clark would not elaborate further.
Huerta passed on a five-fight renewal contract with the UFC last January to pursue a second career in acting. The 26-year-old fighter completed the last fight on his contract at UFC Fight Night 19 on Sept. 16, where he lost a split decision to Gray Maynard.
However, Huerta said recent back-to-back losses to Kenny Florian and Maynard in the Octagon revived his passion for the sport and that he’d like to fight again in February or March.
The lightweight fighter, who comes from Salvadoran and Mexican descent, was marketed heavily to the UFC’s burgeoning Hispanic market in the last few years. The UFC continues to make in-roads there, and hopes to hold its first event in Mexico City this year.
If Huerta returns to the UFC, the lightweight said he’d continue his pursuit for the division’s title, held by B.J. Penn.
“I think two good fights would put me back in the mix for title contention,” he said. “I think my two losses came to two really good guys and they were both by decision, the last one being a split decision that could have gone either way. Kenny became the number-one contender and Gray could easily become that as well.”
Strikeforce, which drew an average 4 million viewers during its first CBS “Saturday Night Fights” broadcast on Nov. 7, is building its rosters for 2010. The promotion plans to hold up to 24 events between its two broadcast deals with CBS and premium pay channel Showtime.
“I recently saw, actually, that fight with Fedor (Emelianenko) vs. (Brett) Rogers and the show looked amazing,” said Huerta, who is 6-2 in the UFC. “The fights looked great. There’s a lot of great fights in that show.”
Huerta, who was the first mixed martial artist to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2007, believes he’d fare well in Strikeforce’s 155-pound ranks.
“It would be up to them,” said Huerta, “but I’d definitely like to fight a top-caliber fighter like (Shinya) Aoki, (interim champion Gilbert) Melendez, or (champion Josh) Thomson. Obviously, I’d have to earn my stripes in that organization, if I went there, but any of those fights would be amazing.”
Huerta said Bellator Fighting Championships, the Hispanic-driven promotion that returns in April with a live broadcast deal on FOX Sports Network, could also be another option.
Meanwhile, Huerta will visit Phuket, Thailand in December with coach and former UFC champion Dave Menne to study at the Tiger Muay Thai gym for three weeks.
Huerta re-located to Austin, Texas earlier this year and has preliminary plans to open a gym in the area.
And then there’s the question of when and where he’ll fight next. Huerta said he defers that decision to his management.
“That’s up to Jeff Clark,” said Huerta. “Wherever’s going to be the best fit for me in the organization, that’s where I’ll head.”