Torres: 'I'm a marked man!'
Story by Jose E. Santiago
Rare are the occasions that a fighter returns to his old stomping ground with the acclaims of not only success, but world champion status and as, possibly, one of the pound-for-pound best.
Such is the case with WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres.
On April 5th the East Chicago, Ind. native will be fighting in front of his home crowd at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
“Being considered the best is a lot for any fighter to carry on his shoulders,” says Torres, who will be fighting at home for the first time since 2008. “It’s a lot of responsibility considering that anything can happen at any time.
“There are fighters that are part of the upper echelon in MMA and I do think my name belongs with them, but it’s too much a responsibility to say that there is one above all of us in that class”.
With regards to fighting at home Torres says, “I made my living fighting at home and I used to fight here almost once to twice a month. But now, I haven’t been back for a while due to the contract with the WEC. I’m fighting at home now and it’s truly an honor to do on the big stage.”
With a huge contingency of Mexican-American heritage in the Windy City, Torres is proud of what he’s accomplished.
“You know, being the first of my heritage to be considered as the best pound for pound is huge for me,” says Torres. “I grew up in an area with a lot of drugs and gangs. Many Latinos see me here and all over and think to themselves . . . you know what, Mexicans can be good at mixed martial arts, and not just boxing and soccer.
“Being a Mexican with the blood line brings that tenacity of being a good fighter and I’m very proud of that”.
Having a clear understanding of what his current status demands, Torres enjoys the craze of being the champ—all except one aspect:
“To be honest, the only thing I miss is not having to travel so much. I remember when I was a kid and saying to myself, I want to travel all over the country, but it’s the only thing that I don’t like much.”
With regards to fans and media Torres says, “I love the fans and the media is ok with me. I’ll sit in a restaurant and because of my notoriety I know people are going to approach me . . . and I like it.”
Torres is quick to mention his current employer: “I really have to thank the WEC for giving me a shot. They’ve done a lot for me to get the recognition I have.”
The 135-pound bantamweight division is stacked with talent. Torres wants to continue in his dominance to make sure it gets recognized.
“I want to put 135 on the map, so that it can be regarded as one of the best weight classes out there,” says Torres. “Before I got this belt, no one really paid attention to the division, but now that I have the title I feel a target on my back. Fighters have seen how it has changed my life and they’re either moving up or cutting weight to get a shot . . . I’m a marked man and everyone is coming after me.”
Speaking with Torres outside the cage is a complete contrast to what viewers and fight fans see when he’s in the spotlight ready to do battle. Humility and respect are characteristics portrayed in conversation, but when in the cage Torres’ ferocity is unmatched. When asked if it’s a mental or natural switch Torres responds, “It’s a little bit of both actually. I’m naturally an aggressive fighter and as the fight gets closer, I feel that intensity growing. Even with my sparring partners, they can tell that I turn things up a notch. How exactly I do it I don’t know, but I go from being a natural person to being a monster.
“Even after the fight when I get into the locker room, I have to ask my coach what happened, because the intensity is so high I don’t even remember what exactly happened.”
Originally scheduled to fight undefeated Brian Bowles of Athens Georgia, Torres is now fighting Takeya Mizugaki due to a Bowles injury. Torres took the change in opponents in stride and say’s he didn’t change anything in training camp to adjust.
“Both guys are strikers,” he says. “I think Bowles was going to stand and try to knock me out and I think Mazugaki will do the same. I know he doesn’t want like to go to the ground, so I’ll stand with him and try to knock him out and we’ll see what happens.”
On that note, Torres enjoys to get hit and actually relishes it.
“I actually look to get hit in a fight to show my opponent that I can take it,” says Torres. “I establish that in training when I spar with guys that weight 225 lbs. If I can take a shot from them, I want my opponent to know that I can take his shot too. The more I get hit the more it gets my blood flowing and makes me want to punch my opponent back.”
When asked how he anticipates how the fight against Mazugaki will unfold Torres kept it simple:
“The perfect night would be they lock the cage and I knock him out in ten seconds and then I’ll get to fight again soon.”