Did TMZ Mislead Everyone with the Roger Huerta Streetfight Video and Story?

MMA journalists are accused all the time of being “TMZ-like” reporters — sensationalistic rumor-mongers who report on stories devoid of any real facts. Calling  a reporter that is just as bad as saying “you have no integrity and have no right to be in your chosen profession.”

Rarely does the match that lit the flame of a story we helped fan into a blazing, fast-spreading inferno get traced back to the source of that most detested disparaging monicker, but when it does, although it isn’t surprising considering the source, it makes you look long and hard at your own journalistic practices.

Earlier today, TMZ “broke” a story about an alleged street fight former UFC star Roger Huerta was involved in last week in Texas. The gossip site released a video that began with a woman being sucker punched by a man, who is soon confronted by the Bellator lightweight, as pointed out in the crisp freeze frame below:

After a brief panned out shot of a shirtless Huerta squaring off against and then chasing down the fleeing perpetrator we get a few glimpses of the chaotic scene, including shots of frantic screaming women and cars darting through the crowd. Moments later, the video, which then gets suspiciously grainy, focuses from afar on a shirtless man, presumably Huerta, who seems to stomp on someone who is lying motionless on the ground.

If you watch the entire clip in slow motion and focus on the stomp and ensuing fracas frame by frame, it becomes clear that the story is not as cut and dry as many reports suggest.

When the camera closes in on the scene, an irate man with long hair is being held back from jumping on the guy on the ground. A shirtless man, who was previously standing just outside the frame who is clearly NOT Roger Huerta begins yelling at him. When police sirens can be heard in the distance, he seemingly tries to step in to let his buddy know it’s time to exit the scene, post haste, which they do soon after.

The question is, if Roger was the guy they say knocked this piece of trash out, where did he go? He’s nowhere to be found when the camera pans around the scene.

Even more odd is the fact that when you compare the profile of the shirtless man with the freeze frame of the stomper, it’s a near perfect match right down to his hairstyle.

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Here’s a digitally enhanced (to improve clarity) version. The photo on the left is a screen capture we grabbed from the video. The one on the right is a still frame used by TMZ which appears to have been altered to add a tribal tattoo to match the one that adorns Huerta’s left shoulder. He also seems to be wearing an unbuttoned long sleeved shirt that is flowing back behind him.

I find it amazing that TMZ, who also have a daily television show and undoubtedly have access to far superior video editing equipment than my Macbook Pro, were unable to clean up the video quality of the stomp allegedly administered by Huerta, yet they pulled these clean screen captures from the beginning of the video to perhaps misleadingly make readers believe it was Roger who put his foot down on the guy’s head, when it is unclear exactly who is the assaulter in the video.

At first, I figured that they rather purposely didn’t write anything that pointed to Huerta as being the guy who used PRIDE rules on the street, leaving the assumption up to the readers by means of the power of suggestion, but after re-reading the post, I realized they didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt I originally afforded them.

Here’s the text from the story, which is pretty cut and dry and leaves little to the imagination:

27-year-old Huerta — who was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated — was in front of a bar in Austin around 2 AM on Saturday morning … when some other people began fighting. Roger was near the scuffle … when he saw one of the men involved punch a female who was standing near the ruckus.

Once Huerta sees the woman collapse to the ground — he instantly tries to confront the attacker saying, “You just punched a f**kin’ girl.”

Moments later, Huerta takes off his shirt … slams his hat to the ground … and rushes after the man.

Chaos ensues and people scramble after the fighters, blocking the camera — but seconds later … a shirtless Huerta can be seen finishing his attack on the other man … who is sprawled out on the street.

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People rush in to aid the bloody man on the ground — who eventually gets off the pavement — as Huerta walks away from the battle ground.

Austin PD tells TMZ that officers were called to the scene — but so far, no arrests have been made.

Huerta’s manager tells us, “I have not spoken to Roger yet about this incident, but I can say that it’s in his nature to be very protective of women.”

In their defense, although they seem to love any story about a UFC fighter, I’m not sure TMZ would know Huerta from Clay Guida, but claiming that Roger was the perpetrator of the assault when it isn’t clear that it was him at all is beyond irresponsible.

It’s not like it would have taken much research to figure out what he looks like and to compare photos to stills from the video to see that it very well could have been one of the other shirtless guys in the crowd. I also find it vey odd that not one other person of the hundred or so that were there that night have tweeted, blogged or written a single Facebook status update referring to the former UFC fighter who kicked some woman abuser’s ass last week. How did nobody see what happened?

I think the icing on the cake was the drunken onlooker who informed the cameraman that “the guy who kicked the other guy’s ass is a UFC fighter,” yet he didn’t know what Huerta’s name was when asked and given that he was beside the guy who shot the video,  he didn’t even see the ass-kicking up close.

He’s likely going by the fact that he saw Roger in the early stages of a fight before the shit hit the fan and when the guy Huerta was about to throw down with is laid out on his back, it must have been the “UFC fighter” who did it.

I guess we’ll wait and see what TMZ have to say about the situation and if an apology to Huerta is forthcoming if it is proven that this truly is a case of mistaken identity. Maybe we can all learn something from their mistake.

I guess sometimes these things happen when you pay the general public for your news stories.