Roger Huerta’s 2019 campaign was almost over before it began.
The lightweight veteran made it to the cage for his 38th pro fight last November at Bellator 234 in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he lost a unanimous decision to Sidney Outlaw. In retrospect, Huerta realizes that he probably shouldn’t have been competing that night.
Nine months before his fight with Outlaw, Huerta was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that he considers himself lucky to have escaped without more severe injuries. He wasn’t entirely unscathed though and he recounted the incident in an interview with MMA Fighting.
“I was driving this motocross 250 and it was late at night, I was going a little too fast,” Huerta said. “I hit an oil patch, lost control and then I flew over the handlebars. I hit my head pretty hard, my shoulder, and I rolled through. But yeah, I thought I cracked my head, but nothing, there was no blood there. I was really lucky with that actually, really, really, really lucky.
“Ended up going to the hospital. They understood that I basically tore some [ligaments] in my right shoulder and then I started going to the hospital to see if this was legit and I was going to try and fight still with it like that and I couldn’t. I let Bellator know and they ended up fronting me some money so I can pay for the surgery.”
With Bellator helping out on the financial end, Huerta underwent surgery two months later and the gravity of the situation became clearer. However, he still knows that the accident could have been much worse.
“The accident happened last year, February, I had the surgery in April, it was pretty serious,” Huerta said. “They took a graft out of my hamstring to help my AC (acromioclavicular) joint in my right shoulder. It was pretty gnarly. I was lucky though, I didn’t die.”
Huerta, who currently lives and fights out of Phuket, Thailand, recently changed camps and routines. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, his plan was to get a fight in the summer; instead, like most of the Bellator roster, he’s biding his time as the world deals with the pandemic.
On a positive note, Huerta feels completely recovered from the motorcycle accident, a stark contrast to the condition he was in when he faced off with Outlaw. Their fight was primarily a grappling affair and once they locked up, Huerta knew that his shoulder wasn’t where it needed to be for him to be effective against Outlaw’s wrestling.
“I think I pushed it too soon,” Huerta said. “I was pretty weak. I was weak and I had to pay extra attention to it. Mentally I wasn’t quite there and I felt like an amateur, to be honest.”
“Once the takedown happened and once we’re on the ground it’s like, okay, I have to pay really close attention to this shoulder, which is why I played a lot of close guard game,” Huerta said. “Although Outlaw had a really good top game, he felt quite heavy, but I just stuck with it and I don’t know why I threw so many damn, stupid kicks. It was weird. I don’t know, again, it was like amateur hour. I guess we can all have one of those, right?”
Though he’s not dwelling on the setback, it dropped Huerta’s record to 0-3 in his second stint with Bellator. Coming off a pair of losses to Benson Henderson and Patricky Freire, and then the motorcycle accident, why did he decide he had get a fight in last year?
“I thought I wasn’t pushing it too early,” Huerta said. “It was one of those things when you finally go in there and you compete then you realize, ‘Man, maybe I should have waited a little bit longer.’ It was just one of those things, so trial and error.”