Six months ago Miguel Angel Torres was on top of the world.
The Chicago native had just defended his WEC bantamweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Japanese import Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 40 -- his third straight successful defense. He was at the top of pretty much every top ten list imaginable. He was doing TV spots on ESPN, magazine covers, countless appearances and interviews and pretty much everything else that goes along with being the best 135-pound fighter in the world.
Then four months later at WEC 42, with one swing of his left hand, 29 year old Brian Bowles sent Torres and his whole mystique as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world crashing to the canvas.
Now here we are two months later. The dust has settled and Torres' reality is that he is no longer the WEC champion and he no longer has that unbeatable image that garnered so much fanfare over the last couple of years. The unbeatable image is likely gone for good, but his lost championship belt is not. And he wants it back -- which is bad news for Brian Bowles and all other WEC bantamweight contenders that might stand in his way.
We sat down with the former WEC 135-pound kingpin earlier today and talked about that fight with Bowles, what the future holds for him, a possible WEC/UFC merger and much, much more.
Check it out:
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Start off by telling us a little bit about what you've been up to and where your head has been at these last couple months coming off the loss.
Miguel Torres: I've been good man. My head's been good. I've been working on my gym a lot, training still. I've got a bunch of guys who are upcoming fighters from my gym. I've been doing a lot of seminars out of town, working with different gyms and different associations. I've kind of looked at this loss like a blessing in disguise because I've been able to work on my personal life. I put my life on hold for two years working with the WEC. Now I've had a little bit of time to sit back and work on my gym and spend time with my family and spend time with my students so things have been going really good. I've been training still. I think I'm going to fight again maybe in January. There's no set date, but everything's been going really good.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): You mentioned in a pre-fight conference call leading up to the Brian Bowles fight that all the exposure you've received since joining the WEC has king of worked against you in allowing your opponents to develop better gameplans against you. But on the flip side of that someone like Bowles who's only fought seven pro fights doesn't really have much tape to go by and he certainly hasn't knocked many people out on film. What kind of factor, if at all, do you think that played in this fight? Was he more prepared for you than you were for him?
Miguel Torres: I think Brian Bowles had more than enough time to prepare for the fight. When he had got hurt in February, when he couldn't fight in April, until he fought me in August, he had a lot of time to prepare. I know going into the fight that I was coming off two fights, Tapia in December and then Mizugaki in April. At the time I was traveling, doing promo and seminars. Then I would come back, train for my fight for two months and then I would do non stop promo for the next two or three months until my next fight. So I didn't really have much of a break. Brian was able to be rested. I don't believe in luck. He hit me with a really good shot. He caught me right behind the ear and I was out right when I hit the ground. I think that was me not being prepared to control a situation like that. I hit Brian and I hurt him, but even a hurt Brian Bowles is dangerous. In retrospect I should have been more cautious going into the fight. I should have respected his power a little bit more. And when I get the opportunity to fight him again, if I do, it's going to be a completely different fight. I'll be smarter.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): You mentioned some of the promo stuff you do as well, like the TV stuff with ESPN and all that. Do you think having to worry about stuff like that distracted you from fully preparing like you needed to for such an important world title fight?
Miguel Torres: I prepared the best that I could. I think there was a lot of situations that took place leading to what happened. It wasn't just the traveling. It was also the way I was training, training in my gym with my own guys. Everybody here is real tough, but they don't have that professional skill level that we need. All the guys that I train with that are professional fighters, I couldn't train with because they had their own fights. That was the thing with Kurt Pellegrino and Kenny Florian, we usually do a training camp at either their gym or my gym, but we couldn't do that for this fight because they all fought the day before I fought. That's really the downfall of training with guys that fight in the UFC. If you guys fight on cards that are the same time then you guys can't work together.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Before the fight people sort of had you on this pedestal as this unbeatable champion. Did you feel any pressure because of that to kind of fight a more entertaining style or the way you thought your fans wanted you to instead of maybe fighting smarter by picking apart your opponents weaknesses and sticking to your strengths?
Miguel Torres: I've always fought the way I've fought mainly for the weight class, to make the weight class exciting and popular. I heard things about the way that I fought or the way people thought that I was. I didn't play into that. I didn't pay much attention to that. I know I'm human and everybody loses. I just fought the way I fought to try and bring attention to the weight class. I knew with me and the WEC getting a lot of attention that there was a chance to go out there and show the world what 135-pounders can do. If I went out there and fought a very efficient fight where I didn't take any damage, just took guys out, I don't think that would be as exciting than to go out there and just bang with guys. I took a different approach. In retrospect I'll fight smarter next time. But of course there's always that chance to make a big impact on a weight class, and I felt like that was my time to do that.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): You mention being human and that everybody loses, but you had never been knocked out in your career in something like 40 pro fights. Does having that to your credit lead to any over confidence in your chin to where you feel like you can't be knocked out in a fight?
Miguel Torres: No, it doesn't at all. I didn't get hit in my chin. Brian caught me in the side of my head. When I hit the ground I was already out. When he threw the punch he was retreating, going backwards. He was looking down when he threw it. I just walked right into it. I was over aggressive and cocky, and I shouldn't have gone at him so fast. I put myself in that situation. I could have hurt him and then laid back and let him chase me and counter punched, but instead I was trying to be the aggressor. That was the mistake that I made. I should have fought a totally different gameplan. The way that I was training and the way that I was thinking was totally off. So this fight gave me a chance to sit back and think a little bit, and next time I go out there I'll be a lot smarter.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): How would you have fought smarter if you could have that fight over again? What gameplan would you use?
Miguel Torres: I still would have stayed standing with Brian. I just would have been a counter puncher. I would have let him come forward and I would have tried to pick him apart that way. I knew going into it that when you have a guy that hits really hard that you can't chase a guy like that because one shot can change the fight. I should have stayed back and let him come at me, used more of a clinch game to try and take it to the ground and expose his ground game. There's a lot of things I could have done. Anything but chase him. The worst thing I could have done was chase him and that's what I did.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): We kind of knew that he was going to have the strength and power advantage. But with some of your recent fights you've been able to take some very hard shots and just sort of walk right through them. I don't think anybody was expecting you to go down so early. Do you think it's easier to take hits like that later in fights when you're already in survival mode? I mean, I know you were prepared for his power, but what happened in this fight that was different than the Maeda or Mizugaki fights where they hit you a ton?
Miguel Torres: I've never been hit in the side of my ear. I've never been hit like that before. I've been hit in my face and my forehead and my chin and I've never had a problem with it. But I've never been hit in the side of my ear like that. Never. I remember chasing Brian. I hit him with a right. He started retreating and I chased him. That was the last thing I remember was chasing him. That first punch he hit me with, when I hit the ground I was already out. I was moving, but I was out already. I was on autopilot then.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): There was a lot of pound for pound best fighter in the world talk and stuff like that going on before that fight. Do you think, maybe even subconsciously, that that led to the over aggressiveness or cockiness you were talking about earlier?
Miguel Torres: No, I never put stock in any of that stuff. People always ask me about that like, "where do you think you belong pound for pound," and "we think you're one of the best fighters in the world." I tell people all the time that I don't really believe in that ranking system. And the way it is now I don't think I should be on there because I haven't had enough fights to be on there. I've had a ton of fights, but not enough where people can see what I can do. It's not fair to put me up there when I'm not where I need to be yet. It wasn't my confidence, it was the way that I was training. I would go into a gym and I would have ten guys in the cage. Everybody in the cage would have experience and they were tough, but they didn't have that professionalism that would have them fighting smart. They would go out there and try to take my head off no matter who was tougher. So if I could out-tough anybody that was in the gym, I win. I didn't have to go to the ground because I was just trying to be tough with everybody. With a guy like Brian Bowles it's totally different. You can't out-tough a guy like that because one punch can change the whole fight. That's the approach I tried to take. I tried to out-tough him and bully him around, but he was a lot stronger than I was.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): He's real similar to a guy like Mike Brown and we already saw Brown sort of take over his division from a guy who, like you, people thought was unbeatable in Urijah Faber. Do you think that style, the power punching with the wrestling and the strength, is kind of taking over the smaller weight classes?
Miguel Torres: No, I don't. I believe in my jiu-jitsu and I know that I have one of the best ground games for my weight class. On the ground nobody's been able to stop that attack yet. And I haven't used that with Brian yet. And my next fight will be a different kind of fight.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): So does your training change at all moving forward? Do you feel like you need to adapt to figuring out ways to counteract that style?
Miguel Torres: No, I do that anyway. My next training camp, whenever I find out who my next opponent is, I'm either going to be in Boston with Mark DellaGrotte or I'm going to train with Robert Drysdale in Vegas. It just depends on if I'm fighting a striker or a grappler. I've been working on my wrestling for the past two years now. My wrestling is pretty tight. My jiu jitsu is there and my striking is there. I just need a coach to clean it up and to help me with a gameplan. My gameplan has always been to just go out there and beat guys up until now and I need to be smarter.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Is Brian Bowles the toughest fighter you've faced in your career?
Miguel Torres: I don't think that Brian Bowles can be put up there yet. He knocked me out. He caught me with a punch. I think Mizugaki is one of the toughest guys that I've faced because he could take a punch and stand right through it. He caught me with some shots and I caught him with really good shots and I think he's one of the tougher guys that I've fought.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Do you still feel like you're the better fighter between you and Bowles? And what would you do differently if you could go back and do the fight over?
Miguel Torres: What I'm going to do different the next time I fight is, I'm not going to do any PR. I was doing PR for UFC 100. I was there for four days. Then I went to L.A. for four days. I was doing the ESPN show early on for three episodes. I had a couple appearances that were already booked before I booked my fight. So there were a lot of things that are going to get cut out for my next fight. I'm not going to do any of that stuff. I'm going to limit all my interviews. I had a camera crew doing a documentary on how I train. I had a two guys coming down to the gym from Chicago daily doing pictures for the papers. So it was to the point that I was kind of pressured to perform for them instead of training the right way. My next training camp I'm not going to stay in my gym. I'm going to train with either Mark DellaGrotte or Robert Drysdale. I'm just going to take a smarter approach to my fight next time. I'm going to go out there and fight to put the
guy away as soon as possible. I'm going to go out there and try to win as soon as possible, not to make it entertaining for the fans.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like you're the better fighter?
Miguel Torres: I do. Brian caught me with a great shot and he knocked me out and I give him all the props in the world. But I still think that I'm a better fighter than he is. I think you have to think that way if you're a fighter. I will never think anyone is better than me. Even if Brian beats me ten times I wouldn't think he was better than me and I would still try to fight him again.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): As someone who has been at the absolute top of the division, what kind of advice would you give to a young guy like Bowles as he tries to make his mark on the weight class?
Miguel Torres: Good luck. I'd tell him good luck. It's going to be tough. It's one thing when you're coming up and you can put all your time into training and all your time into doing what you have to do, but it's another thing when you have obligations with the media and the fans and you have to travel and do all these other things. It's a big difference. It's a reality check. You realize you can't spend as much time in the gym. When you travel, your diet is off, your sleeping schedule is off. You know, just because you have a one day trip doesn't mean one day. There's the day you leave and the day you get back, that's three days. So three days out of the week and your whole week is ruined because you got three days that you're off. When you train for a fight and you take one day off, two days off, it ruins your whole schedule. And then to do that constantly over and over again, it's very rough.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): It looks like Dominick Cruz is next in line for a title shot. Do you feel like your resume is enough to where you should get an immediate rematch or is that even something that you want to do?
Miguel Torres: I want an immediate title shot. I have the resume for it. I think I have the resume for it. I just think it wouldn't be fair to Brian Bowles or to Dominick Cruz. That was considered the top contendership for the Brian Bowles fight and I don't think it would be fair if I stepped in and took it from him. I'd kind of be a prick. If I was Dominick I think I would hate me for that.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): We've seen in the past that Zuffa likes to pair guys coming off losses against each other. On that same card there were two other top bantamweights in Joseph Benavidez and Jeff Curran who lost as well. Are there any thoughts on potential match-ups with those guys? And I know you and Curran have gone back and forth with some verbal jabs in the past. Is that a fight that you want?
Miguel Torres: I'll fight anybody that will earn me a title shot after that fight. If that's Jeff Curran then I'll fight Jeff Curran, if it's Joseph Benavidez then it'll be Benavidez. I'll fight whoever the WEC is going to put in front of me to keep me in line for a title shot. The fact that Curran was talking shit and the fact that he wants to fight me, I think this is a perfect time to make a fight happen. But I don't know if me fighting him is going to do anything for my career because he has four losses in a row. I think a fight with Benavidez will be better for my resume. A fight with Curran doesn't mean anything. I think he's a great fighter at 135, but on paper it doesn't mean anything. I think that if I beat Benavidez it's different.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): I've also heard that Rani Yahya was a possibility. Is there any truth to that? Have you heard anything from the WEC on any of these guys?
Miguel Torres: They gave me a couple guys names. That was one of the names. But he just fought at Abu Dhabi and he hurt his arm. That's not official, but I heard he hurt his arm. There's no date yet set for me to fight. They're trying to bully me into fighting in December and I have all of October booked for travel already so I told them the earliest I could fight is January. And the next camp is not going to be in my gym. I'm not going to be home for two months, so I have to prepare to leave. I can't just at the drop of the hat just go anymore. I'm going to be smart from now on. I'm not going to just do things like that anymore. I'm going to do my thing.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Speaking of the Abu Dhabi, how come you didn't compete this year?
Miguel Torres: I chose for the very reason why Rani Yahya is out now. He fights for money. He's a prize fighter. In the Abu Dhabi there's no guaranteed money there. You train for a tournament and you go out there and get hurt ... I think there's more risk in a tournament of getting hurt than there is fighting. Now he can't fight and he's not going to be able to make money. Training takes time and a fight takes time. It's all the time you put into it. And then to not get any rewards for it or no benefit. Everybody already knows Rani Yahya is a great grappler. He went to the Abu Dhabi and made it to the semifinals but he got his arm popped. Now he can't train, now he can't work and now he can't fight. If I did the tournament, Jeff Curran is in the tournament, Urijah Faber, whoever is in the tournament that are fighters, now they all get to see me grapple up close and personal against some of the best guys in the world. It gives them insight into my game
and there's still a lot of mystery about my game because i haven't fought much on the ground. And I wouldn't want to give that away for free. I think somebody is going to have to earn that in a fight.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): You have a guy that trains under you by the name of Mackens Semerzier who has just signed on to face Wagnney Fabiano on short notice at WEC 43. Tell us a little bit about him and what we should expect to see out of him on Saturday night.
Miguel Torres: Mackens hits like a Mack truck. His jiu jitsu is on point. He's one of the guys that I can't catch. I train with Mackens on the ground and I can't catch him. And his wrestling is ten times better than mine. His wrestling is certified. He's actually a real wrestler. So he's got takedowns, he's got stand up and he's got grappling. He's got every area. He was training for a fight October 2 or 3 so he's already been training to fight for two months already. So when the opportunity came along for him to fight I knew it would be perfect for him because he was already in shape. He hasn't had just two weeks to prepare for it, he's been training for this fight for two months already. So I think Wagnney is in for a big surprise on Saturday.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): That's good that he's been training. But the deck still seems to be stacked against him. This is only his fourth pro fight, while Fabiano on the other hand is considered one of the top contenders in the division.
Miguel Torres: You can't look at it that way anymore because times are different than when I first started fighting myself. When Mackens trains he trains with some of the best guys in the world. When I train, I train with my students so it's a big difference. Mackens has a lot of guys that he trains with that are very good. I think coming into this fight is like Brian Bowles fighting me. He didn't have the time to think about the opponent and who he was fighting, but he knows this is his chance to make an impact on the community and the whole 145 pound division in the WEC. He's going to go out and he's going to do the best that he can. I wouldn't have him fight if I didn't think he could win.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Have you heard anything about the possible WEC/UFC merger? I heard they wanted to use some of the marketable guys like you and Faber and some others to bolster UFC pay-per-view cards. How would you feel about possibly fighting in the UFC's 135 pound division on pay-per-view?
Miguel Torres: It excites me a ton, but I haven't heard much about that yet. I don't know what they're planning on doing or if they're planning on doing it at all. Until I get a contract or see something in writing, to me it's all hearsay. I know that the WEC has a contract with Versus for a while. They still have a contract so I don't see that happening anytime soon. I would love for it to happen though. I think it would be the best thing for the WEC to do. But until it's on paper and there's an official document I wouldn't put much stock into it.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): It was reported that you made 25 grand for your last fight. For a guy that's as marketable as you, it seems like you're worth more. Does it bother you that you're just as, if not more, marketable than some of the guys in the UFC, yet they still make more money than you?
Miguel Torres: It bothers me a lot. It bothers me a lot, especially after this last fight. I was taken care of a ton until this last fight and now I got pushed to the side. I understand that business is business, but I think you should take care of the guys that are marketable. I think even if Brian Bowles wins his next five or six fights he still won't be as marketable as I am, or Urijah Faber. It's not a matter of him being a great fighter or not being a great fighter. I think it's a matter of personality. That's why Rampage Jackson is so popular, he's just a character. I think when you got guys that can appeal to the audience like that you've got to take care of them. But the WEC knows what they're doing. They're doing what they can. They're not making any money themselves yet. If they were making money like the UFC it would be a different story. That just pushes it more that the WEC should get absorbed by the UFC. But that's a brand that I believe
in, the WEC. I just don't see anything big happening in the near future. Not in my lifetime. I think the next generation of fighters, them and the ones after are going to reap all the benefits of what I'm doing. I just don't see it happening anytime soon.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): So do you feel a sense of loyalty towards the WEC since they helped introduce you to the mainstream MMA world, or would you consider fighting for one of the non-Zuffa owned organizations like Strikeforce or one of the Japanese promotions if they were going to throw UFC-like money at you?
Miguel Torres: I'm a little partial towards the WEC, but at the same time, I'm human and I have a family to feed. So I'm going to go with whoever is going to help me support my family the most.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Alright Miguel. Let me get a couple of predictions from you for some of the big upcoming fights before you get out of here. I'll say a fight and you tell me who you think is going to win and why. Let's start with "Cowboy" Cerrone vs. Ben Henderson.
Miguel Torres: Cerrone. He's hard to submit. He's got a good guard, and he kicks like a mule.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Mike Brown vs. Jose Aldo?
Miguel Torres: Mike Brown by blanket. He's going to smother Jose Aldo.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin?
Miguel Torres: Lesnar. He's "The Prodigy" of the heavyweight division.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort?
Miguel Torres: Silva. I like Vitor, but I think Silva is going to win.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): And just in case they ever do fight, Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans?
Miguel Torres: I don't know, that's a tough one. I'd probably go more with Rashad because Jardine fought Rampage already so I think they could put together a good game plan at Jackson's so I'm going with Rashad.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Alright Miguel, before you get out of here do you have anything to say to your fans that are still, two months later, in shock after watching you lose the way you did?
Miguel Torres: For sure. The first thing I want to say to my fans is that I appreciate all the support and loyalty. I will be back. I will have my title back. My last fight, all that proves is that I have to be smarter, and now that I understand that I will come back smarter.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Again, we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Are there any sponsors or anything like that that you'd like to mention?
Miguel Torres: I'd like to thank Ecko Unlimited and TorresMartialArts.com.
James Iannotti (MMAmania.com): Alright. Thanks again champ. Good luck to you going forward, we're all excited to see you fight again.
Miguel Torres: For sure man. I appreciate it. Thank you.