Over the past few weeks the tide of internet opinion has been turning against Roger Huerta. As with most things in life it all comes down to money. Roger wants more of it and has said so publicly which has in turn upset Dana White. There is a lot of talk in the MMA community that Huerta is a "protected fighter" who has not beaten anyone that puts him in line for the kind of raise he is rumored to be asking for (word is that he wants a bigger deal than BJ Penn has).
While the idea of more money than Penn is a stretch I've got to believe that the UFC is in a place where they almost have to bend to his desires.
The UFC was fine with losing Tito Ortiz to Affliction, if for no other reason than his demands could be financially crippling for the upstart promotion. I do get the feeling that the UFC brass probably wish they would have re-signed Andrei Arlovski after seeing the reaction he received at the inaugural Affliction show. Arlovski has remained a strong fan favorite even despite some lackluster showings toward the end of his UFC run and he remains one of the fighters I most get asked about by casual fans. Arlovski would have even provided a boost to UFC 90 in Chicago as he remains a popular figure in the area.
Huerta has broad appeal, he is handsome, young and is an all-action fighter. Win, lose or draw this Saturday he can demand a nice sum that should be within reason for any of the major promotions. The amount he asks for will likely be above what he has "earned" in terms of major wins but it isn't going to be at Ortiz levels of being potentially promotion crippling.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Roger Huerta though is his heritage. Being of Latino descent he has what is still a relatively unique appeal for the upper levels of mixed martial arts. Having covered boxing for several years it is considered a general fact of life that the Latino market is huge for fight PPV sales. As the sport grows having marketable Latino stars is going to be something of increasing importance for MMA promotions. Roger is exactly the kind of star that has been money for the Latino market in boxing with his brash but not overly cocky attitude and gutsy hard-charging style. In today's economy the UFC would do well to continue to attempt to expand its appeal to as many demographics as possible and letting Huerta go would go strongly against that philosophy.
Is Roger Huerta being unreasonable by wanting more money? Perhaps. But the real question is, can the UFC afford to let his marketability be taken elsewhere? I think not.