In a fighter’s career, there will be a time when he/she faces a downward spiral. Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Muhammad Ali are just a few names that will come to mind. They all plunged. They eventually experienced what it was like fighting at the tale end of their careers.
And in the case of former WEC champ Miguel Torres (42-7), there’s a propelling tale that’s just waiting to be written.
The 33-year-old, at one point in time, embarked on a terrorizing streak that saw him amass a remarkable record of 30-1. He was considered as the best pound-for-pound fighter in his weight class, and opponents twitched at the very thought of facing him.
But life as a Mixed Martial Artist was not exactly smooth sailing for Torres over the past years or so. Four losses in seven outings had the American trumped out of the UFC and WSOF, forcing him to compete in smaller promotions against lower level competition.
Yet, he doesn’t regret it. Not one bit.
While MMA is structured around honing one’s craft and discipline, those are only puzzles that fighters embrace to ensure they’re heading in the right direction. Sure, there’ll be the occasional sip of alcohol. But their lives, sometimes, may only be truly led astray when the business end of the sport arrives.
That was the one thing Torres succumbed to. Hours that were supposed to be spent in sparring were replaced by regular appearances at conventions and shows. Punches and kicks on the swinging bag as well as grappling on the mats were replaced with his social life and business ventures. Quite simply, Torres lost sight of what was important.
“It’s called life. I fell, and I fell hard. You can’t go up forever. Since I started my career, I’ve excelled in everything. Till I was 26 or 27-years-old, my career was going all the way up,” Torres told MMASucka. “30-1 at one point? It was an incredible streak. But eventually what happens is, once you put too much on your plate, with travelling and what not, things change. At that time I had five main sponsors; five contracts with five different companies that were paying me big money.”
“In return, of course, I had to do stuff for them. It was the same with the UFC and WEC. Instead of watching the event at my house or at the gym, I was actually attending every event. There was a fight almost every weekend so I’ll leave on Thursday, attend the weigh-ins on Friday, watch the fights on Saturday and return on Monday. I was gone for almost 4-5 days every single week.”
Torres admitted that his heart was not in it when it came to progressing his career and making his stance as the best fighter in the world. And while his focus shifted, he failed to realize that his foes were casting glances, training extensively every day to garner what he had. But it was too late before the 33-year-old realized what made him indestructible in the first place.
“In those times, I wasn’t eating right, sleeping well, nothing. I was always running around, promoting shows, hanging out with fans and doing other stuff. It wasn’t like before where every day, I was teaching, training and opening myself up to being immersed in more techniques,” Torres continued. “My opponents were hungry and nobody fights because they are rich. They were fighting because they were trying to make a living and make themselves rich.”
“Even though I had achieved that goal of being the best, I lost sight of what made me a champion. And little by little, every day, I spent time away from the gym, away from my students and away from the mats, while the other guy was watching my fights, watching what made me a champion. I was basically inspiring my opponents to fight me harder, and train harder.”
It was setback after setback. One loss turned into two, and then three, and so on. But since then, Torres learned that he wanted to experience that winning feeling even more than ever before. He knew he led a life with too many structures, barely keeping up with the one concept that was vital to him – to strive to be the best at what he did.
It’s now all about a ‘fighting first, everything else comes second’ hymn that the 33-year-old has dedicated himself to. He knows all too well that to get back to the top, he had to devote everything he had back to the cause.
“I had to rebuild not just my fight career, but everything from scratch. And that takes time. I tried doing it too fast too many times and guess what? I kept slipping. I had to get away from everything and see what was important and what mattered,” he stated, in a matter-of-factly tone. “When I figured things out and saw how it really was, I got away from social media. Like I’ll post things now, but in the past, I was just striving to be an entertainer. Now, I keep to myself more and I’m more reserved.”
Gone were the coaches that worked with him and his students at the gym. Gone were the bad habitual ways that he had indulged himself in too. He commenced with a clean slate.
“I don’t hang out anymore, I don’t have any friends, I spend my entire time in the gym where you can see me there from 8:30am in the morning, to 10:30pm at night. You’ll find me there the whole fucking day not doing anything else,” Torres recalled.
“But hey, that’s what got me to where I’m at today. I’ve been home now for the past year, or year and a half. I rebuilt my academy, my gym and I teach all my classes now. So it’s good for me because it keeps me grounded and it keeps me busy. I realized that with the support of family and the support of my students, I’d be able to rebuilt myself to be where I have to be.”
Thus far, the slate has initiated on high note. Since receiving his pink slip from the WSOF, Torres has found himself on a two-fight winning skid, competing in a promotion that’s close to his home. His next opportunity comes later this week on Friday at REBEL FC 2: Battle Royale in Singapore, where he, along with seven other hopefuls, will compete in a tournament to claim REBEL Fighting Championship’s inaugural 145-lbs crown.
It’ll be a shift up a weight class for Torres, but he won’t be competing on uncharted waters. He’s fought there before. His appearance in the tournament, though, will mark the first time that he’s fought outside of American soil. But even so, he’s eager to impress the masses, solidify his legacy, and to continue to build his name in a different continent.
“The experience is going to be awesome. My dream was to always fight in Japan and to fight Japanese fighters. But they only ever offered me 500 bucks and there’s no way I was going to fight for that amount. Here in REBEL FC, well I’m clearly not going to be fighting in Japan, but they have Japanese fighters so I guess I got my wish,” Torres laughed. “I chose to fight in Singapore because I wanted to. I want to show people my true style and my personality. It’s harder to do that in America. I’ll do it in Asia.”
Torres, meanwhile, is vary of the criticism that has been expelled on him since his slump too. There’s been a bulk of negativity surrounding the 33-year-old although he feels it doesn’t do any justice to him at all.
How can they judge me? How can they judge my performance when they’ve got no idea what led to that performance? How can they judge me when they don’t live my life or walk my walk? Torres would ask himself those questions, and while he believes there’s some educating that needs to take place, he maintains he could care less.
“I don’t worry about fans anymore. In the past, I used to worry about fans and what the promotions thought of me. Now I could give a shit, because I tell myself people who are judging me, they’re neither fighters nor my peers,” he declared. “They say I’m not a good fighter? Fine. Well, they’ve never fought or trained to the level that I have, or traveled the world sleeping on floors, gyms and basements while eating garbage because of using whatever money to pay for training. I’ve done things that people would be repulsed and grossed of. It would make them stop. But for me, it fueled me to train harder and better.”
Torres’ opening-round match-up puts him opposite Japanese starlet Takahiro Ashida (13-2-2), who enters the REBEL FC cage on the heels of a 11-1 run. As ever the optimist, the American has some wise words for his Japanese counterpart.
“I hope he underestimates me. I hope he does. All he’s going to see are my past failures when I wasn’t right and not a 100%,” the former UFC vet said. “This is why it’s so exciting for me. He’ll see, first hand, what the former pound-for-pound best fighter in the world used to be. I know what I can do and I know what I have. It’s still inside of me. If I didn’t have it anymore, I’d retire. I’m not a stupid guy. I’m educated and I know when somebody’s done. I still have my nuts. I know it’s just a matter of time before I get everything right and come up again.”
“But, having said that, in my mind, I’m always the underdog. That’s always made me who I am. Everyone looks at me as the favourite, and they put the pressure on me. But I don’t. I won’t feel it. What’s important is my mindset. If I go in there with the right mindset, the win is going to come. I only worry about the mindset to get the win. I know what I need to do to win, and how to do it. I just have to go out there and execute.”
The East Chicago, Indiana native may not be in the same position he once was several years ago, but he hasn’t stopped in his tracks from setting his priorities right. There’s an indispensable amount of passion in his side, and he has a plan firmly in place for what he wants to achieve in before and after his MMA journey.
“I want to experience MMA for what it is. Not just now, but after my career as well. I have an army of 9-year-olds along with 16-year-olds that are coming up in the gym. So I want to look past my career, and see what I can offer these young kids, when I’m ready to teach and promote full-time,” he said. “Can you imagine the kind of experience they will be getting? International experience with international contacts be it UFC or even REBEL FC, wherever. I look past the future of my fight career, yeah I love fighting but I have to look at the bigger picture of what I’ll be doing after fighting.”
Everybody wants to follow a fighter’s career, his bouts and what not, but they can never really ever follow his personal life. As far as family, relationships and businesses go, outside of a caged affair, there’s a whole other fight going on. Whilst having experienced a great deal of success in his life and career, it’s now no secret that Torres has been through heaps of downs as well. However, he is on course to ignite a flame he lost, and the quest to replicate that same success may very well begin come August 1st.
“I’ve honestly suffered the worst I could suffer. I could lose the next 15 fights of my career. But what’s that going to mean? Nothing. Everyone calls me washed up, I’m past my prime, stuff like that anyway,” the former WEC champ concluded.
“Thing is, I’ve always been strong mentally. But I think what I’ve been through has made me more mentally strong than ever. I survived it, I’m still here, not retired or hurt or down in the dumps anymore. I’m back, and I’m ready to do some work. I still have a lot of fans. Likewise for haters. But that’s good, right? The more haters you have, the better you’ll do. Everybody who hates me, I’m sure I can kick their ass.”
REBEL FC 2: Battle Royale takes place August 1 at the Suntec Exhibition and Convention Centre in Singapore. The main card for the event features an 8-man tournament, while the prelims is set to showcase a host of names from both the local and international circuit.
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*Credit: Miguel Torres, Maria Nevarez, REBEL Fighting Championship