07-31-2008, 08:23 PM
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| | Author Discusses Backlash From Huerta's "FIGHT!" Mag Article
Author of controversial FIGHT! story on Roger Huerta discusses backlash | MMAjunkie.com
The latest edition of FIGHT! Magazine has caused a bit of a recent stir due to a piece on Roger Huerta and some of the comments he made about the UFC and his displeasure with how some fighters -- himself included -- are compensated. |
MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com) today contacted the story's author, Neal Taflinger, to get his thoughts on the now-controversial story and whether some readers' outraged reactions are just.
Taflinger admits that fighter pay was a central topic of his discussions with Huerta, but he says widely distributed excerpts of the article don't tell the whole story.
"I think the passages that have been cited online today are much less sensational in the context of the entire article, but I'm glad to see that it's generated so much passionate discussion," said Taflinger, a sports writer and frequent contributor to FIGHT!
In the story, Huerta described how he no longer does grueling press tours for the UFC because he only received a $50 per diem for his efforts. He also said the UFC is light on loyalty and respect with its fighters and that most UFC fighters' salaries barely cover their training expenses. Huerta, who also confirmed that he turned down an offer to appear on "The Ultimate Fighter" (and MTV's "Real World), caused the biggest stir with one particular quote.
From FIGHT! Magazine:
"The truth is, I don't really care if I fight in the UFC or somewhere else," Huerta says. The fighter says he understands that Zuffa has to keep an eye on the bottom line, but he wants to work, "For a company that is as loyal to me as I am to them."
Taflinger confirms that fighter compensation was a frequent discussion point.
"I spent parts of two days this spring with Roger Huerta in Denver where he was living with Nate Marquardt and working out at T's K.O. Gym," Taflinger said. "Roger was extremely candid in our conversations, expressing a range of emotion beyond what I had seen from him in other interviews that appeared in print, online and on video. He began talking about the financial aspect of being a professional fighter as soon as he was done with his morning workout the day I arrived and brought it up several more times before we parted ways the following afternoon."
However, he said Huerta shouldn't be seen as a greedy complainer -- and instead, a fighter who's garnered enough clout in the sport to start pushing for changes for himself and other fighters struggling to survive the rigors of the business.
"I never intended for those comments to be the focus of the story, only an illustration of one of the ways Huerta has come into his own as a fighter and a man in the last year," Taflinger said. "It's also clear in the context of the whole story that this isn't a selfish rant from a greedy fighter. Huerta is a smart guy and he wants what is best for himself now and in the future, but he also wants to help other fighters secure fair wages and honest treatment from promoters and sponsors."
Huerta, who recently turned 25, owns a 25-1-1 career record, including a spotless 6-0 mark in the UFC. After a victory over Clay Guida in December -- arguably the biggest win of his career, and his fifth fight of the 2007 season -- Huerta opted to take some off from fighting. He returns next month to fight Kenny Florian at UFC 87 in a bout that UFC President Dana White previously stated would earn the winner an immediate title shot.
With two fights remaining on his current contract, Huerta could demand a hefty raise if he earns that title shot (the UFC simply won't allow a fighter to compete for a title unless he's wrapped up with a long-term contract). With his booming popularity -- partially due to the UFC's own marketing efforts, and largely due to Huerta's clean-cut image and remarkable rags-to-riches background -- Huerta would be in the driver's seat.
However, even with the possibility of Huerta demanding what he feels is appropriate pay, Taflinger said the story wasn't intended to focus on Huerta's current discontent with the organization.
"Neither I nor FIGHT! Magazine has an agenda when it comes to Huerta's relationship with the UFC," he said. "We're fight fans and fans of fighters, and we want MMA to succeed in the biggest way possible. The growth process of all major sports included players and management arguing over money. It's not pretty, and it's not particularly fun when it spills over into newspapers, magazines and blogs, but it's big business and everyone is trying to get while the gettin' is good."
So, after spending so much time covering the sport and interacting with the fighter, does Taflinger agree with Huerta's general assessment of the business and that UFC executives don't always treat their fighters the way they should?
"When I write profiles of people, my job is to record the interaction and present them as honestly as possible," he said. "I provide context and clarification when needed, but I try to stay out of the story. It's about them, not me."
The August issue of FIGHT! is now available on newsstands and at FIGHT! Magazine - MMA, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, IFL, Cage Fighting.
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