by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
With the UFC’s relaunch of the lightweight division earlier this year, there is no shortage of talented young fighters who are ready to step up and fill its ranks. Among the top prospects is Roger Huerta, who is scheduled to make his UFC debut against Hermes Franca at UFC 61 on July 8th.

Huerta, a member of Monte Cox’s Team Extreme, has amassed an impressive 14-1-1 record since turning pro in 2003, and now his hard work will be rewarded with the dream opportunity that he has always wanted in the UFC.

“I’m excited! I’m the most excited I’ve ever been,” said Roger, ecstatically. “This has been my dream. All the fighting, all the hard work, and now I’m ‘in.’ Now that I’m in, I want to make a mark [and] put on a show. I’m thankful for this shot, and I’m going to give it my all.”

When it comes to his UFC 61 opponent, Hermes Franca, Huerta is expecting nothing less than a war, but he’ll be ready, having trained in the past with fighters who have UFC experience.

“For those people who’ve seen me fight, they know I go balls to the wall, and I know Hermes will, too,” Huerta said. “I respect him as a fighter and as a person. As a fighter, I know he’s got a lot of heart and likes to bang, likes to throw down, so I’m expecting that already. That’s why I came down to [Pat] Miletich’s to train for this fight.”

Huerta continued, “I was actually training with Dave [Menne] for his fight [against Josh Koscheck at Ultimate Fight Night on June 28th], but now Monte’s got me working down here with Jens Pulver and Spencer Fisher for this fight, and it’s definitely good, tough training. With Jens especially… I mean, he’s so good and crazy, too [laughs]. They’ll be coming down to corner me in Vegas.”

This fight will be taking place on the biggest stage of Huerta’s career. According to Huerta, however, he won’t allow the pressure get to him, and he plans to execute his game plan as he usually does.

“It feels amazing, but for me, it’s not going to change me. It’s not going to change my game plan. It’s going to be the same fight it would have been anywhere,” explained Huerta.

Roger added, “I know Hermes is good on the ground, but I’ve got real good submission defense. When I take him down, I’m going to put pressure on him. I’m going to push him against the cage and rain down on him. Like I said, he’s got a lot of heart. I know I have a lot of heart, so we’ll see how that turns out. I just know it’s going to be a great fight.”

Regardless of the outcome, having a chance to fight against a top lightweight in one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world has reinvigorated Huerta after a lot of disappointment earlier this year over a cancelled event.

“I was so excited for that K2 show. Then it didn’t happen, so I was really down about that, but then I got the phone call for this and I was like, ‘Thank you, God.’ I was so happy,” said Huerta. “It gave me inspiration to train hard and get back into it. I’ve got a goal now. I have something to look forward to, and I’m just so happy for this opportunity.”