“I never dreamed of doing MMA, it was never one of my goals in life. Now that I’m doing it I want to be the best I can be.”
“The Chosen One” Angel Huerta
Interview by: Barry Laminack
It has been my experience covering the sport over the last 18 months that fighters tend to be bit insecure about themselves, though I’m not sure why that is. In the cage, they have all the confidence in the world, but outside of it (and outside of MMA), many seem to be a bit self-conscious.
Enter Angel Huerta. He’s not only confident about his skills in the cage, he’s really comfortable with who he is outside of it. A self-described “fun loving guy who likes to have fun and act goofy,” he’s also a damn good fighter with a bright future. Fighter, Entrepreneur, Model, Actor and Fiancé are all credits listed on his life resume.
I caught up with Angel via phone just before his final weight cut leading up to his fight against Andy Sandoval on January 29th at the Legacy Fighting Championship. We talked about his Karate background, who he is as a fighter and he shared with me some things that might shock even his family and close friends.
Angel: It’s definitely not fun. I’ve been real strict on my diet, especially since my first fight actually. My first fight was at 140 and my second fight with Akira [Smith] was at 135. I wanted to be real disciplined and not have issues in the fight (like being weak because of my weight).
I stay disciplined and try and eat right, but I’m just trying to get this water weight out now.
TCD.net: So what do you walk around at?
Angel: I walk around between 152 and 156, depending on what I ate. I try to keep it in that area. Today (Jan. 27) I woke up at 148 and in a little while, we’re gonna start cutting weight. Last fight at this same time I was 151, so I am 3 pounds lighter going into the cut so that should be good.
TCD.net: Damn, you have zero body fat as it is. Do these cuts take a toll on you or are you used to it now?
Angel: I guess I’m kind of starting to get used to it. Like I said, it’s really just that 24 hour period before the fight that sucks. At the end of the day, I think this is better for me. I don’t think I should be fighting at 145 because I have a really thin, small frame. Plus I have the discipline to eat right too, so I don’t balloon like some other guys.
TCD.net: So you maintain a strict diet? C’mon, you never binge or cheat?
Angel: No, I don’t binge man, never. Even before my first fight I always tried to eat healthy and stay in shape.
TCD.net: OK, so let’s rewind for a second. You have a pretty extensive background in karate and martial arts. Talk about that a bit. What got you started and what got you interested?
Angel: Wow, well, I got started when I was 14 or 15. My little brother’s friend came to a birthday party at our house and he was doing back flips. We were like, hey, how did you learn how to do back flips? He told us that he was taking karate. My little brother wanted to go join up so I went with him. It was at a neighborhood community center near our house. The guy asked me to join up with my brother, so I did and the rest is history. I loved it.
It was funny because I was doing karate in a little room with white walls no hanging bags, no fancy stuff like you see in the movies, but you couldn’t tell me that it wasn’t like a little Shaolin temple. It was awesome to me.
I got my black belt 4 years later and I was always competing in competitions. I used to compete in forms demonstrations with weapons and stuff. As I got better I started getting sponsorships on the karate circuit and started competing all over North America. I won a couple of world championships for sport karate for fighting and for continuous fighting. I went to college and didn’t know what I was going to do and then one day I thought, I love to do martial arts why don’t I open my own school.
It’s funny because I started teaching at a community center just like how I started learning. I didn’t have any experience other than what my instructor had me do when I would warm up the class for him, but I guess it was obvious I knew what I was doing because after a couple of weeks my classes were full with kids. Then I started an adult class.
A year later I decided to open up my own place. I was still living with my mom, my dad, my brother and my fiancé. They didn’t know where I was or what I was doing so they started asking where I had been. So after a couple of weeks I took them all to the space where I am at now in Pasadena and they where like, “what is this?” They were shocked when I told them it was my karate school.
TCD.net: So what pushed you into MMA?
Angel: Well first, never in a million years did I think or want to do MMA. I was doing the World Combat Leagues (the Chuck Norris promotion) and it was close to the continuous sparring that I was doing in sport karate. At the time I thought I was training hard, I wasn’t, but I thought I was.
I wanted to improve my stand-up even more so I sought out Saul Soliz because I had heard he was good with Muay Thai and stand-up. I started training over at Metro with Brian and Mike, Melvin and Carlo, Tim and all those guys. I was doing ok with those guys even though they were seasoned pros, but after a while Saul said that he couldn’t have me just doing stand-up. He wanted me working on other stuff like take-downs andwrestling. I started doing it and little by little I started getting better and the guys really encouraged me to keep going. Eventually Lee and Mike and the guys told me I was ready, so here I am. When you have guys at that level telling you that you have something, it’s really encouraging and makes me want to keep doing it.
Angel: I guess because it’s not really regulated. Anybody can open up a karate school. If you want to open up a hair salon you have to have a license, but anybody can open up a karate school. I’m sure there are a lot of fake schools out there that really don’t teach self defense or maybe they think they are but just don’t know better.
Also, a lot of times they get stuck in the tradition of how things were. When it comes to the katas and weapons I totally understand, but when it comes to self defense you have to progress with the times. In these times people know how to do takedowns and jiu-jitsu so you have to progress. I think a lot of the karate guys get stuck in their old ways. I try and teach traditional martial arts, but my students also know how to check kicks, have learned some takedown defense and some basic jiu-jitsu.
TCD.net: What gives you an advantage in MMA from your karate background?
Angel: Oh man, I’m barely starting to learn this now. I remember thinking of the different weapons that I can use in a karate tournament that I can’t use in a fight, like an axe kick. I mean some of the stuff will work, if you use it at the right time it will work. For me, it was about not having confidence. I would think, “What the hell am I going to do when I get taken down.”
The more that I learn take-down defense and the more that I learn jiu-jitsu the more confident I get, and the more I feel comfortable in using the other weapons from other martial arts. There are a lot of kicks in Tae Kwon Do and Karate that might seems flashy to people but would work, but if you get taken down doing them, can you get back up?
TCD.net: You’re striking is really crisp. Not only are you powerful but also very accurate. Is that due in part to Karate?
Angel: Yes. When you practice your forms and your kata’s you are supposed to be practicing to perfection. Every line needs to be clean. The same is true when I’m shadow boxing I try and throw every jab clean, every hook clean, keep my elbows in, make sure I snap by wrist at the end of my punch, make sure I pivot 90 degrees, etc.
TCD.net: Talk a little bit about your Jiu-Jitsu training. You’re out at Gracie Barra Texas under Draculino right?
Angel: Yeah man, I learn a lot out there. Draculino is an awesome teacher. He’s world-renowned and what I really like is that he’s actually done MMA, so he’s not a jiu-jitsu coach that has never fought. He actually knows how to bring it into cage fighting.
TCD.net: What do you know about your next opponent, Andy “Scrappy” Sandoval?
Angel: I’ve seen a couple of videos of him and I notice that he as a ton of heart. He comes to fight and he’s not going to stop unless I stop him. He’s a scrappy dude, so his nickname is perfect. I’ve been able to identify some holes in his game, so I know enough about him, but I have to do me.
TCD.net: When you game plan, do you do it based off your opponents past fights and how they did, or do you focus on their strengths and weaknesses?
Angel: To be honest, I try and focus about 80% of my strategy on me. I gotta do me and try and make them adjust to what I do. I’m aware of them, but I gotta do me. Like the first guy I fought, I didn’t know anything about him so I didn’t have a game plan. With Akira, I did have a game plan. I knew that when he stepped over with kicks I was going to want to step in (that was an element from karate that I used).
In point karate we see the back leg coming a lot. If a guy comes with a rear leg to throw a kick, in point sparring it’s about scoring first with clean technique. My lead leg sidekick would hit him in the stomach before his back leg round kick could land, or if I wanted to step in with a back fist to counter his back leg round kick I could. With Karate, I am used to seeing that hip move. As soon as that hip moves, go!
Angel: Man, if ever there was a game plan that was stuck to, that was it. Every time he stepped to kick, I would catch him in between. Every time he took a step to plant his foot to throw a kick, I would step in on him.
TCD.net: You know I have to ask this. Tell me about the modeling career.
Angel: Oh man! That’s like such a small thing. It’s very minor. I’ve done some Academy stuff but nothing major. Man, dudes are gonna want to bust me in the nose now! Not that they don’t want too already!
TCD.net: What is something that most people don’t know about you, or something that would surprise people that do know you?
Angel: Man, I’m very goal driven. I’m also very fun loving and goofy. I love life.
TCD.net: C’mon, I need something better than that!
Angel: OK, lets see, I listen to Sade before a fight to ease my mind, I’m scared of needles and roaches, I can speak Spanish and French and I’m 40 hours shy of a bachelors degree from U of H. Oh, and I moved to L.A. to pursue acting in my 20’s.
TCD.net: You get any gigs?
Angel: Yeah, but none I’m going to tell you about! All I’ll say is it wasn’t gay porn! [laughs].
TCD.net: Anything else?
Angel: Yeah, I ran the full Houston Marathon on 24 hours notice with no training. Ran the whole thing and finished. Oh, and I peed the bed until I was 11. That’s it.
TCD.net: Well, that’s enough.
TCD.net: What is your goal in MMA?
Angel: I want to be my 100%, what ever that is. If it’s being a Legacy champion, Bellator champion or UFC or what ever. In MMA my goal is to be the best fighter I can be and to fulfill my potential. I think if I can do that good things will happen. I never dreamed of doing MMA, it was never one of my goals in life. Now that I’m doing it I want to be the best I can be.
TCD.net: Do you have a prediction for the fight?
Angel: I predict that it’s going to be [pause] a hell of a fight.
TCD.net: That’s it?
Angel: Honestly I’ve always admired the guys who are confident, and I’m confident too, but how are you going to say, “Oh, I’m going to win like this in this round.”
It’s a fight. If we knew the results it would be a fight. If I bob instead of weave he might clock me and knock my ass out, we just don’t know.
TCD.net: So are we ever going to see you win via submission?
Angel: That’s funny man that you say that. In the Akira fight, when I had him up against the fence I had a choke locked in real tight. I think I could have chocked him out if I would have left it about 5 more seconds, but in a split second I thought, “I’ve got this dude hurt. I could choke him out, or I can keep kneeing him and punching him and finish him like that.”
So, if I have an option to go for a submission or go for a KO, I’m going for the KO.
Angel: Man, I don’t have any sponsors! I guess I need to market myself better!
I do want to thank all my training partners, my students, my family and a special thank you to Fernando Lopez for doing my strength and conditioning.
TCD.net: Well Angel, I appreciate the time. I know it sucks to do interviews just before a hard weigh cut.
Angel: No man, it was great. It made me forget that my stomach was growling. You sure you don’t want to talk to me some more?
TCD.net: Na man, I’m a fatty. If we keep talking, this conversation will eventually turn to food.
Angel: Ah man, never mind then. We don’t want that!
TCD.net: Well, again, thanks for the time and best of luck.
Angel: Thank You Barry.