Roger Huerta said he’s found the will to fight again.
Huerta, who passed on a five-fight renewal contract with the UFC last January to pursue a second career in acting, said his split-decision loss to Gray Maynard last Wednesday has re-ignited his competitive fire.
“I think it could have gone either way and it’s my fault I let it go to the judges and I can’t go out like that,” Huerta told Sherdog.com Sunday. “I can’t go out with two losses in a row. I don’t think I’m going to call it quits anytime soon.”
The popular bilingual fighter was heavily promoted by the UFC in 2007 and 2008, especially after he became the first mixed martial artist to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated following his dynamo performance against Leonard Garcia at UFC 69.
However, the 26-year-old lightweight opted not to re-sign with the promotion earlier this year in favor of acting opportunities, he said. Huerta completed the last fight on his existing contract at UFC Fight Night 19 on Sept. 16.
In recent months, fighters like Randy Couture, Cung Le, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have all juggled movie roles and their fighting careers with mixed results.
Though some might consider Huerta’s acting proclamations as a way for him to not re-sign and become a free agent, Huerta said he was “dead-set” on leaving fighting behind until he entered the cage last week.
“I’m still open to acting,” said Huerta. “Hopefully we get something going with that, but I’m not going to prioritize (acting) now. I’ll still prioritize fighting. If the UFC wants me back, I’d be willing to go back.”
A return to the UFC is not impossible.
One common component of UFC contracts is a 60-day exclusive renegotiation period following a fighter’s last bout. If a new agreement is not reached within that time, the fighter can begin negotiations with other organizations. However, the UFC has the option to review and match any offer made by a rival outlet, sometimes for up to a year after the fighter’s contract expires.
“We haven’t spoken to the UFC since last Wednesday, but we’d definitely keep that option open,” said Huerta’s manager Jeff Clark, of North County Fight Management.
Huerta said he hasn’t taken the opportunity to consider other promotions, such as Strikeforce, just yet.
“I’ve been with the UFC since 2006. They’re all that I know, but it’s up to my manager Jeff Clark to decide that for me,” said Huerta.
Huerta’s love affair with acting began in the summer of 2008, when he landed the role of Miguel “The Matador” Rojo in the feature film adaptation of the popular video game “Tekken,” due out in theatres sometime this fall.
In January, Huerta announced he’d signed a three-picture development deal with Lion’s Gate Films, whose latest titles have included “Gamer” starring Gerard Butler and “Saw VI.”
However, Huerta’s transition has been like much of the rest of the film business crippled by last year’s writers’ union strike -- slow.
“We started looking at the things we were going to do with Lion’s Gate,” said Huerta. “We’ve looked over some roles, but nothing that I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into (yet).”
In July, when he received the call from the UFC to face Maynard in September, Huerta said he dropped all other pursuits to focus on the bout. Huerta was pleased with the results.
“I think this last fight was probably the best fight I’ve ever had, the most focused I’ve ever been,” he said. “I fought a very dangerous opponent, who is probably going to be the next number-one contender. I lost to the number-one contender before that as well. I’m right in that mix, where a little tweak here and there (in training) and I’m right in there.”
Huerta, who relocated to Texas earlier this year, said the 13 months away from competition also gave him new perspective.
“I went back to (trainer) Dave (Menne in Minnesota) and really just started paying attention to him finally after all these years,” said Huerta. “I’ve really gotten into being good to my body as well, understanding that I only have one body. Your body’s like a vehicle, depreciating every year and if you treat it well, you slow down the process.”
Lauded for his passion in the cage, Huerta said it took only the opportunity to tap into it again to know he wanted to keep competing.
“I didn’t know how crucial that Kimura was until I saw the video,” said Huerta. “I was going to let him break it. I really was. That’s the competitive blood in me. I’ve never given up on anything, and I guess that’s back in me now.”