Former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Roger Huerta officially has joined Bellator Fighting Championships.
) first reported the expected signing over the weekend, and during a press conference that today streamed live on www.bellator.com
, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney made the official announcement.
Huerta (21-3-1), one of Bellator's highest-profile signings to date, joins the season-two eight-man lightweight tournament field. His first fight takes place at Bellator 13 on April 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
No opponent was named for Huerta, but Rebney said an announcement "literally could come in the next few days."
Huerta looks to win the tournament and a shot at season-one winner and current champ Eddie Alvarez. Each winner stands to make $100,000 over the three fights.
Huerta's fights and all of Bellator's main cards from its 12-week seasons air live on FOX Sports Net affiliates, and highlights shows air two days later on NBC and Telemundo.
Huerta returns to the cage for the first time in 18 months. Once of the sport's top prospects and the first MMA fighter to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Huerta suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Kenny Florian, turned down a new deal with the UFC, and then dropped a split-decision defeat to Gary Maynard before he announced he planned to put his fighting career on hold while pursuing an acting and modeling career.
Behinds the scenes, sources told MMAjunkie.com that Huerta was displeased with the UFC's restrictive contracts and his own low pay and planned to explore fighting opportunities in outside organizations. In September he expressed interest in fighting for Strikeforce but recently opened talks and signed with Bellator instead.
Huerta went 6-2 in the UFC and won his first six fights in the promotion, including a rousing submission win over Clay Guida at The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale in 2007.
Other fighters confirmed for Bellator's season-two lightweight tournament include season-one runner-up Toby Imada (23-13), Chad Hinton (6-0), Janne Tulirinta (12-3), Ferrid Kheder (16-5), Mike Ricci (5-0) and Cary Vanier (7-2)