Every now and then, an athlete is presented with an opportunity that is considered to be once in a lifetime. Chad Hinton is one of those fortunate few, as the 38 year old mixed martial artist has been matched up against the well-known veteran of the UFC Roger Huerta in the first round of this year’s Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix.
With a professional record of 6-0, Hinton has seen a great deal of success since beginning the sport in 2007. However, all six victories have come at the regional level of the sport, and the Ohio native realizes that this kind of opportunity is a result of his signing with the fight promotion Bellator.
“Basically, to fight a guy like Roger Huerta, it would take me three to five wins to have the opportunity to fight someone like that,” explains Hinton. “I’m probably the bottom seed, and he’s obviously the top seed. So this opens up an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. It’s a win-win for me, personally.”
Hinton is right when he says his match up with Huerta is quite the step up in competition. After all, it was not long ago that Huerta was plastered on the cover of Sports Illustrated and entertaining fans on a world level, something Hinton has yet to even remotely come close to.
Yet Hinton does not only understand the leap in competition when facing Huerta, he is also correct in his assumption of his role as the underdog in this bout. But that is a familiar role, one that Hinton has embraced his entire career.
“I use it as fuel. It’s just more of an incentive to succeed,” states Hinton. “Since I got in the sport, it’s always like, some of the promoters early on, they wanted to test me. They put me against the tougher guys around. I’ve always been put to the test, or challenged locally here and regionally, so this is nothing new to me. I’m not really that worried about it.”
Hinton may have been cast the role of underdog for several reasons in his opening round match up with Huerta. With only six professional bouts compared to the 24 of “El Matador”, eight of which came in the UFC, he is certainly at a disadvantage in terms of experience in the cage. But at the age of 38, Hinton feels his experience is much more than his mixed martial arts resume would suggest.
“I am 38 and I have been around for a while,” explains Hinton. “Although I am only 6-0 as a professional MMA fighter, I’ve been in competitive sports since I was a small kid. I’ve been in combative sports since I was a small kid. I try to use my head a lot more when it comes to training and dieting. I pay a lot more attention to detail. I kind of slow down, I guess you would say, and kind of analyze things a little more.”
However, Hinton’s age and maturity not only allow him to analyze an opponent at a different level, but also allows him to fight more intelligently. As opposed to brawling in a similar manner to fighters such as Clay Guida or Forrest Griffin, Hinton looks to avoid damage in a sport synonymous with the term,
“I try not to get hit so much,” explains the Ohio native. “I want longevity in this sport, so, to be honest with you, in six pro fights I’ve probably been hit five or six times, tops. I try to be elusive, move, and not get hit. Roger, on the other hand…I’ve watched some of his fights, and it’s almost like he wants to get hit.”
While Hinton feels that a there are areas where he could exploit Huerta in the striking game, he does not fail to recognize the heart of “El Matador” that seems to shine through after every one of his performances.
Through his 24 fight career, Huerta has consistently displayed his desire to compete and his will to succeed in such a grueling sport. Hinton believes the mentality of the tenacious, iron-hearted Huerta is a by-product of his difficult childhood in Texas and Mexico.
“I think Roger Huerta, based on the way the guy grew up, he gets into a mode, I believe, where he’s fighting for his life every fight,” states Hinton. “I think his mentality is that somebody’s trying to kill him, probably similar to the way he was growing up on the streets.”
Huerta’s style of fighting may be deemed reckless by some, as the former-UFC lightweight contender loves to be involved in a good old-fashioned brawl. But the same style that may seem a product of immaturity is the reason “El Matador” has the following he does. However, he is not the only one who knows how to put on an exciting fight, as Hinton, even with a defensive mentality, knows how to put on a great performance for the fans as well.
“They can expect excitement,” states Hinton. “They can expect 120%, and they can expect a lot of grinding.”
When the cage door closes, Hinton expects an exhilarating fight for the fans to open up Bellator’s lightweight tournament. But Hinton also expects that both his opponent and he will discover something great following the potential “Fight of the Night” on April 8 in Florida, regardless of fame and stardom.
“I think Roger’s a tough guy and I think what’s gonna happen is at the end of the fight, no matter what happens, I’m sure both of us are going to have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.”