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Former Augsburg wrestler Roger "El Matador" Huerta (20-3-1 1NC) returns to the cage and the national spotlight on Thursday night, but not for the UFC where he became a well-known name in the mixed martial arts world.

Huerta, the 26-year-old former St Paul resident is looking to get his career back on track by running through the competition in Bellator Fighting Championships and their upcoming lightweight tournament, where he has the chance to win $100,000 and a shot at Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez (19-2).

"Bellator provided me with a sense of security," Huerta recently told "I control my own destiny in the tournament. The winner gets to face one of the best lightweight fighters in the world -- that's the goal. If I lose, then it's my fault. It's on me and I can deal with that."

Bellator's second season of television starts tomorrow night on the Fox Sports Network and will usually air at 7 p.m. central time. Tomorrow's season debut airs locally on Fox Sports North after the Wild game at 11:30 p.m. (Wild are at Calgary, so it is a west coast start).

The main event with feature Huerta taking on undefeated fighter Chad Hinton (6-0), a 38-year-old native of Cincinnati, Ohio. The event takes place live from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

"It's like March Madness," Huerta told Sports Illustrated's Joss Gross. "The best team is going to win. It's perfect for me."

Huerta overcame tremendous personal odds, including being an orphan and homeless at age 11, to become a rising star in UFC in 2008. He has the distinction of being the only mixed martial arts fighter ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. With his good looks and personable demeanor, people expected he would be the key focus of UFC's marketing campaigns as it expanded into the Latin American markets.

He entered the UFC in September of 2006 with a record of 14-1-1 (1NC) and quickly made a name for himself by amassing a six-fight win streak, including one of the best fights of 2007 where he beat Clay Guida in a slugfest.

Right before Huerta's next fight for UFC, here at the Target Center in August of 2008, rumors started to spread the two parties were far apart when it came to negotiating a new contract. Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer reported at the time Huerta was asking for a six-figure guarantee per fight, and a percentage of the pay-per-view, which is something only a select few of the main event fighters even get and is completely unheard of for someone fighting on the undercard. He was also unhappy about not being paid for doing publicity for UFC, only receiving a $50 a day per diem while traveling the country to promote their shows, and said he would refuse to do any more publicity.

Huerta felt he was undervalued and underpaid, especially for the amount of publicity work he was doing for UFC. UFC on the other hand did not want to throw their pay structure out of whack by giving main event pay to guys fighting on the undercard.

Following the 2008 fight at the Target Center, the problems between UFC and Huerta only got worse, as he continued to ask for main event pay despite the fact his win streak was snapped by Kenny Florian, taking him out of title contention. Also, Huerta announced plans to take time off to finish his degree at Augsburg, which UFC couldn't have been happy about.

UFC kept Huerta out of competition for over a year, enforcing an extension on his contract which kept him from talking to rival promoters. Finally they gave him the final fight in his contract last September, where he lost again, this time by split decision to Gray Maynard.

In the time between his 2008 and 2009 fights, Huerta focused on his acting career, signing a three-picture deal with Lions Gate Entertainment, which included a role last year in the Tekken movie, based on the video game. He also moved back from the Twin Cities to Austin, Texas.

Huerta, and all the other competitors in the tournament, will make $10,000 per fight with a $10,000 win bonus.

"I'm expecting to win the tournament," Huerta recent told Mike Chiappetta at "I know that I need to take every fight one at a time, but at the end of the year I want that Bellator belt around my waist and to be considered one of the top three lightweights in the world. I have my goal, I have my opportunity, and I'm not going to stop until it happens."

If you care to read more about Huerta and his troubled past, you can read Star Tribune reporter Myron Medcalf's 2008 profile here.

Also on the show tomorrow night is Carey Vanier (7-2), a Minnesota native who was an All-American wrestler at Ridgewater College in Willmar. Vanier is also competing in the lightweight tournament, and is scheduled to face Joe Duarte (5-1) a former U.S. Army Ranger. Duarte served two tours in Iraq from 2003-2005 and was awarded a purple heart after being hit in the neck with shrapnel from a roadside bomb.