BY PETER LAMPASONA
Roger Huerta has fought on Pay Per View cards with the largest MMA organization in the world. He has had stadiums filled with fans screaming for El Matador, his face on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and has played a video game character in a B-movie. And he’s gotten paid to do it all. But it wasn’t until last week that Roger Huerta truly lived the dream.
Still on a lay off from his upset loss in the Bellator season two lightweight tournament, Huerta was kicking back at a club in Austin, Texas when an unidentified woman was exiting the club, followed surreptitiously by a large man, allegedly former University of Texas linebacker Rashad Bobino. The man who resembled Bobino struck the woman from behind, knocking her out cold before a witnessing Roger Huerta came in pursuit. In a physical confrontation that followed, the man who was likely the former University of Texas star was dropped by the former UFC lightweight contender.
If this story was submitted by any of the writers I know as a work of fiction, I would have handed it back to him and informed him that if the second draft wasn’t more subtle and believable I would smack him in the mouth. But this really happened. A physically threatening man did something you only see from movie bad guys and a knight with shining martial arts prowess had to come to the rescue in a conflict that culminated in Roger “El Matador” Huerta defeating a former Texas Long Horn.
And the fans love him for it. More than any other win in his professional fighting career, fans have poured out their support for Huerta in his defeat of a big drunken thug. UFC President Dana White, in a huge departure from his idiom, even praised a fighter who signed with another company and got caught in a street fight by saying the man Huerta fought “had it coming.”
And why wouldn’t the fans love him? More than the money. More than the fame. More than the thrill of competition. What Roger Huerta did is the only fantasy universal to everyone who’s ever laced up a pair of gloves. Every single person who has trained to fight has witnessed a depressingly real life situation and thought “I can throw fewer punches than I’m going to put into a heavybag today and fix this forever.”
The dream has its obvious appeal. Though everyone who trains for more than a few months does so for the love of the game, it’s hard work for very niche approval. To fly in and use MMA superpowers to save the day is the simplest way for the sweat to matter to any normal people. Way simpler than getting famous competing.
It’s a fantasy that never plays out. To quote a friend, you can’t just fight everyone you don’t like, life isn’t that awesome.
There are legal consequences. Unseen elements. Misunderstandings. All the things that have beaten this fantasy out of us and force us to claim that we grew up.
I remember my first big milestone in this “growing” process. I was in college. A woman who had spent a lot of time hanging out with my group of friends accused a thoroughly awkward and incidental member of our crowd of sexually assaulting her.
When confronted, the man essentially confessed, lacking the verbal wherewithal to explain the difference between a poorly executed pass and attempted rape. Basically the nightmare of every young man lacking game who finally bellies up the courage to be forward with a woman.
Some weeks after, I invited the man onto the mats for a light spar, and I hurt him. Due to some surprising flexibility in his joints that I had been twisting, he was walking around the next day relatively unharmed. That was not the plan. But, for the moment, I hurt him. And he got the point.
I wouldn’t find out the man had done nothing remotely resembling the crime I was punishing him for until months later. The worst part is that it still took many more similar situations to completely disabuse me of some horribly ill-conceived ideas:
That I could take someone at face value. That I could do anything to save people from themselves. And, most egregious of all, that my fists could do any good outside of the gym.
But, seeing Huerta’s easiest win as a professional fighter, I did not think of the generation of poor diluted dopes who would be fed by the real life fantasy that played out that night in Austin. I did not cringe at all the trouble I got in to and the even greater trouble I avoided playing hero. By all rights I should have been arrested. More likely, I should have been shot.
I thought, “go Roger.”
Apparently, the disdain I feel for all past and present Don Quixotes (Dons Quixote?), like myself, could not overwhelm that little twinge of joy I got watching a proper Lancelot. For all the world’s sickening lack of awesome, I am no hater. And if Bellator’s lightweight knight got his oddly silver screen moment to charge for chivalry and justice, I would suggest that we all just enjoy.
Even if it’s only a short ride.