by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Without a doubt, Roger Huerta is one of the most exciting young talents in the UFC.
After injury delayed his UFC debut, Huerta came on like a Texas-sized tornado, putting on back to back impressive victories at UFC 63 and 67.
Now with momentum on his side, Roger makes his return not only to the big stage of MMA, but also his home state in a clash with fellow Texan Leonard Garcia in an exciting lightweight showdown on Saturday at UFC 69 in Houston, Texas.
Speaking to MMAWeekly from his hotel room near the Toyota Center in Houston, Huerta discussed his road to the UFC, his opponent Leonard Garcia, and where he fits into the ever-expanding 155lb division.
MMAWeekly: First off Roger, tell us how you’re feeling heading into this weekend’s UFC 69.
Roger Huerta: I feel good. I’m keeping my weight checked. I have a new trainer, Justin Hagens, who has been really good with me. [He's] my nutritionist, my conditioning coach, my lifting coach, so he’s had my calories in check and he’s just a really good guy.
MMAWeekly: You’ve fought in Texas before, but nothing to this scale. How does it feel being a part of the UFC’s debut in your home state?
Roger Huerta: Man, it feels really, really good. Like you said, I’ve had to fight here before, but it isn’t anything like the way it’s [going to be]. I mean, this is a UFC – this is it – the Superbowl of events; especially after they bought PRIDE, this is it.
So I’m really glad I’m fighting here at home and all my family and friends are going to be coming in to check out the fight from all over Texas. This home for me, this is where I grew up, I’m a little bit nervous though, because this is a hometown crowd.
MMAWeekly: Just a year ago you were not with the UFC, trying to get fights lined up that fell through, trying to get your break into the big time, and now here you are a year later, in the big show on the main card.
Roger Huerta: It fells really good to be here. I was supposed to fight Hermes [Franca] first, but then I got hurt. I got hurt just before I fought [Jason] Dent, but there was no way I was going to pull out of that card, ended up becoming Fight of the Night. Then the last one [against John Halverson] just TKO within 19 seconds, and now I’m like excelling at everything.
I’m so focused on doing my job now and I’m here to stay and here to make a statement that this is where I belong and this is where I’m going to retire.
MMAWeekly: Let’s talk about your fight on Saturday with Leonard Garcia. Not a lot of people have had a chance to see him fight or may be familiar with him, but he’s a real tough customer. Tell us your thoughts on the fight and what people can expect to see in it.
Roger Huerta: Everybody’s going to see a lot a heart. Like you said, the public doesn’t know Leonard Garcia, they don’t know the name, but fighters and the underground knows he is a scrapper, he comes to bang. He’s real well-versed in submissions and he’s going to come in and bring his A-game against me.
I’m always going to be coming with it, so we’re going to be banging out the first couple of minutes; but I believe within the third minute I’m going to be wearing him down, and my conditioning is going to take over, my heart is going to take over.
MMAWeekly: We spoke to him recently and he had said that he trained with, and was ultimately asked to join, Greg Jackson’s team in New Mexico. What are your thoughts on him going to such a prominent team to prepare to fight you?
Roger Huerta: It’s all good, you know, because it helps him bring his A-game. It’s kind of weird that he did go out there and get help from Greg Jackson, Diego [Sanchez], and those guys; but regardless of that, I’m well-conditioned, I’ve been training my butt off and nobody is going to take that away from me, not even now.
I don’t care whatever help he gets, I’ve got God on my side, a lot of good things going on and I just believe that it is going to be a good fight, but other than that, get all the help you’re going to get, bring the fucking Army, ‘cuz you’re not going to take me down.
MMAWeekly: Soon the UFC lightweight division will see a huge swell of new talent coming in, from the acquisition of PRIDE to The Ultimate Fighter 5 guys. What are your thoughts on where you’re at in such a stacked weight class?
Roger Huerta: I feel really good in the division. It is getting stacked, especially when the UFC bought PRIDE and The Ultimate Fighter 5 show coming out, it is going to be a stacked weight class. I think I am in a good position, a good spot right now. I’ve been winning, and I’ll tell you what, I’m never going to lose, you can quote me on that, I’m never going to lose.
So all the guys that I’m going to fight, they better expect a war and a loss on their record. The thing with that which is so amazing is that now the UFC has bought PRIDE, now everybody can know who is really Number 1. None of this prediction and whatnot, now everything can be put out on the table, and let’s go, because we’re all in the same company [now].
MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Roger; we know how busy you are this week. Is there anything you’d like to say before we close out?
Roger Huerta: I’d like to thank Justin Hagens, my personal coach who keeps my schedule and does everything for me. I’d like to thank Dave Menne, for being the guy he is towards me as well. My mom Jo Ramirez, my other mom Maria King, the McCarthy family, Tapout, Xyience, of course my manager Monte Cox, and the UFC in general for the opportunity that they’ve given me and letting me be a part of their company.
The fans, I’d like to say thank you very much for supporting me and backing me up and fallowing me from the underground, throughout my career, and also now. I’d really like to thank God for blessing me and giving me the opportunity to go out and do what I’m doing today, fighting in front of all these people.
I’d like everybody to check April 7th card at the Toyota Center for UFC 69. It’s going to be a great show and thank you for supporting the sport. Be ready for some bombs, another TKO or knockout.