10 Lessons I Learned from Meeting Roger Huerta and David Menne

by Michelle Lopez on August 27, 2011 in Lifestyle

I recently had the opportunity to train live with Roger Huerta, a world-famous mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, celebrity, actor, role model, and overall good person. He held a rare training seminar in Pharr, TX – one of the towns he grew up in – and showed his students grappling, jiu jitsu, kicks, punches, and more. Roger’s trainer and mentor, David Menne (the first ever UFC middleweight champion in the world), was a special guest at the seminar.

Roger Huerta, Michelle Lopez, and David Menne

Roger Huerta, Michelle Lopez, and David Menne

I learned a lot from the experience – not just from the training (which was, to say the least, an intense physical challenge), but also from the unexpected socializing I ended up doing with Roger, his manager, and several of his close friends after the seminar.

I’m still processing everything and find myself completely inspired by having met and mingled with these people. What’s interesting is that this entire journey started 8 months ago when I casually wrote the following sentence in my notebook: “I talk to Roger Huerta.”

Call it a goal, a thought, or a dream – writing it down was the first action step I took to making it happen. I’m grateful for the experience and continue to be moved by it.

And now…the top 10 lessons I learned from Meeting Roger Huerta and David Menne:

1) Practice is the only currency that matters.
You can’t pay someone to learn a technique or master a skill for you. If you want to become better, you must practice every day – even if it hurts, you’re tired, and you don’t feel like doing it. At the end of the day, all that matters is what you got done.

As Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

2) If you want to be the best at what you do, train with the best people in the world.
To get better at anything in life, you practice. To accelerate the speed at which you get better, you practice with individuals who have already accomplished what you want to do.

These are the people who “paid their dues,” put work in, and went to unbelievable lengths to make their dreams a reality. They possess certain experience and knowledge that you don’t – which means that by working with them, you can tap into their wisdom, learn from their mistakes, and cut your learning curve in half.

3) Price, distance, and impossible circumstances are not valid excuses for you to avoid your dream.
Successful MMA fighters literally travel the earth to learn from top experts and trainers. Roger is no different – he’s trained in Denver, CO; Minnesota; Austin, TX; Thailand; and other places – packing his bags and relocating when necessary. This is ultimately how he ended up training with David, whom he now considers to be his close friend and mentor.

Roger grew up poor, with unsupportive and abusive parental figures. But that didn’t stop him from becoming who he is today. David battled a disease that came close to ruining his health – and that didn’t stop him from pressing on, either.

What if the people you want to learn from, live far away from you? What if they’re inaccessible? What if costs a lot of money to work with them? None of that matters. Go to wherever they are, and get yourself on their radar. Find a way to make it happen. Your response to so-called “impossibilities” will determine your success in life.

4) Be humble.
When you’re being mentored by someone who is far better than you, you realize quickly how much room there is for improving yourself. Boasting, bragging, and puffing yourself up only leads to deflation.

5) Be brave enough to face your true self every day.
In the cage when two fighters are facing each other, each one must look deep within himself to confront what he’s made of. The actual competition almost has nothing to do with beating one’s opponent – it has more to do with facing one’s true self, and getting oneself to perform at one’s very best.

Life is a series of events that forces us to confront who we are – including who we were in childhood. When we pursue a big dream, all our personal demons come out to haunt us, discourage us, and test our resolve. We must face these demons in their many forms, each and every day.

6) Supportive networks make all the difference in you being successful.
Nobody can be helped unless they want to be helped. Even through his guardedness, Roger has long been in a place of receptivity – willing and able to receive help when he needs it.

Throughout his life, he’s continually had a supportive network of mentors and role models to encourage him, keep him focused on the right things, and keep him moving in the right direction. Everyone from his high school coaches to his adoptive mother to his trainers have been like guardian angels arising out of nowhere to help him.

7) If something is truly important to you, you will build it into your lifestyle.
There are those who talk about doing things, and there are those who actually do them. Roger has frequently spoken about MMA being a “lifestyle” – and that to truly become good at it, you can’t just take a few classes here and there. You must build it into your daily routine. You build it into your life so that it becomes a regular habit like eating – and something you can’t help doing, like breathing.

8 ) Be compact.
My first impression of Roger, when I first walked into Jing’s Gym in Pharr, TX, was that he was compact. This was the real-life version of him – not Photoshopped, not dramatized, not posing – just leading a small group of students through warm-up stretches.

His body moved efficiently, and he didn’t take up more space than necessary. He owned his space and was comfortable in it. His movements were purposeful.

(Think of someone who is restless, who squanders energy, wastes time, and carries around extra weight. This is the exact opposite of being “compact” – being highly efficient in how you do things, how you live life.)

9) Taking the time to learn someone’s language is an act of respect.
Pharr, TX, is close to the Mexican border, and 99% of the radio stations are in Spanish. Prior to visiting, I had heard it described as a “rough border town.” It was one of the cities where Roger spent his childhood. One of the first things I noticed was bars over the windows of most convenience stores.

Despite my last name (Lopez), I don’t speak Spanish, nor do my parents. My last name would suggest I’m Mexican, but neither I nor my family have participated in any of the cultural traditions. We were all born in the U.S., and we have no accents when we speak.

I talked about this with several people, including Roger. He shared something I thought was enlightening: when we take the time to learn someone’s language, to learn how people communicate instead of burdening them with our own communication style – it’s an act of respect.

Roger is fluent in English and Spanish and has just started learning Thai (as he lives and trains in Thailand). This made me take a hard look at myself and why I haven’t bothered to master any language besides English.

10) Dream the impossible, then take practical steps to make it real.
If you really want something to happen, write it down. That’s the first step. I don’t know how or why it works, but it works.

Example: Eight months ago I wrote down a very casual statement in my notebook: I talk to Roger Huerta. Call it a goal, a thought, or a dream – whatever it was, I wrote it down, and then 8 months later it happened.

There were a hundred reasons why talking to Roger might have been impossible (he’s a celebrity, he’s busy, he doesn’t know who I am, blah blah blah…) but I wasn’t interested in why it “couldn’t” happen. I was only interested in it happening.

Here’s precisely what I did, and how I took action:

a) I wrote down the goal several more times.
b) I thought about it often, and talked about it to people who were supportive.
c) When I heard that Roger was offering an MMA training in his hometown, I immediately jumped at the opportunity by registering for his seminar.
d) I took on extra work so I could pay for the travel and hotel arrangements.
e) I got my first smart phone (a Samsung Infuse, for the technologically curious) so I could have GPS and be able to navigate my way around unfamiliar territory.
f) I flew to Texas.
g) I attended the training July 26-27.
h) I talked to the people on Roger’s team, including his manager.
i) I asked his manager, “Do you know of any good local places to hang out? Any good parties going on?” – not expecting any specific answer.
j) Next thing you know, Roger’s manager invited me to hang out with them at a comedy club. That turned into dinner at Alhambra, walking through downtown McAllen, and then hanging out at the comedy club.
k) I talked to Roger. Not once, but several times. :)

Roger Huerta and Michelle Lopez

Roger Huerta and Michelle Lopez

Why the meticulous, point-by-point breakdown? My purpose here is to show you how a thought or a dream can be turned into reality with a series of small action steps – each of which may seem scary in their own right, but they are totally doable.

So write your dreams down, even if you don’t believe it’s possible to achieve them. Use actual pen and paper, not just a computer. Think about your dream often, and be ready when an opportunity suddenly appears for you to act on it.

Bonus lesson – 11) Celebrities are human beings too.
If you’ve ever been morbidly curious about what’s it like to be a celebrity, here’s your answer:

Celebrities are still human beings. Like the rest of us, they long for genuine, meaningful connection and experiences – which are often hard to come by. People screaming at them and treating them like God gets old. In many ways, the fame is not worth it. What matters is those who love you and stick by you, through thick and thin.


Michelle Lopez is a copywriter and Certified Online Business Manager™ based out of Colorado. She is working on a project involving getting to know famous MMA fighters and their “real” selves. She write a blog on copywriting and online business management at www.quickresultscopywriting.com. To contact Michelle, email info@quickresultscopywriting.com.

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