Following his win over Nick Pace, I wanted to speak with Miguel Torres. He was one of my favorite fighters in the WEC and just has one of those personalities that I feel is one of the realest in MMA. Some people think his tweets (@migueltorresMMA) are full of schtick but he's just that guy that speaks his mind about things that bother him. We spoke on Monday about a bunch of topics but the most interesting to me was his memories of Carlson Gracie and how becoming the WEC bantamweight champion was a surreal experience and forced him to learn about the fight business on the fly. Miguel just launched a new website where he'll be posting nutrition and technique videos.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - You started training your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Carlson Gracie and you were one of the last fighters to train under him. What was Carlson like as a person?
Miguel Torres - Carlson as a person was just one of those guys where whenever he was with me, I could never lose. There was an aura and a spirit about him that where ever he went, he'd brighten everybody's day. After the gym we'd go eat, we'd go to Chipotle and then we'd go to Starbucks. Where ever we'd go, from the people who worked in the back to the people that cleaned to the people that just met him on the street, there was just an aura about him that would brighten everyone's day up. As an instructor he taught a lot of the basics but they worked. He was one of those guys that was extremely agressive and was always looking for the kill. It went well with my style. He's one of those guys that helped put me on the map. Not just in the mid-West but world wide. I'll never forget him and I love him.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Are there any stories that stick out in your mind of great moments with Carlson?
Miguel Torres - Oh 100%. We'd always drive to tournaments in Ohio. So it's me and him going to Ohio and it's about a four and a half hour drive from where I'm from in Indiana. I'd have to pick him up in Chicago which is about 30 minutes from my house. So we're in the car for about six hours and Carlos had a sweet tooth so he'd have to get a cola and some chocolate at every other rest stop. He always had a fanny pack. It wasn't a small kind of fanny pack. He had CDs, he had money, he had money from all over the world. He had business cards. He had everything in there so we go on this trip and I'm wearing my Torres shirt and we get there and we're gonna meet Ralph and all of his other guys for the tournament and as he gets out of the car, Carlos goes into his fanny pack and pulls out a shirt. And he goes "here, put this shirt on". He pulls this shirt out and it was a two X shirt and I wear a small. So he throws it to me and I can't tell him no, I gotta put it on. But the shirt fit me so big and I was like "dude, it don't fit." So he looks in his bag and he had two more shirts but they were double Xs. Mind you it's a fanny pack, not a book bag or luggage. I don't know how he fit it in there. I ended up wearing the shirt looking like a five year old kid wearing a double x shirt. He was introducing me as "Miguel Torres, he's my Mexican wrestler and no one's gonna defeat him." And everyone is looking going "dude, what are you wearing?" The shirt that he gave me was a new shirt that he'd made. It was a Carlson Gracie shirt. It had two roosters on the front. But the roosters looked like rubber chickens. That was the image on the front of the shirt. That was the shirt that I had to wear for the whole day.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Alright, so you really became a star in the WEC when you became the face of the bantamweight division when you defended your belt against Maeda. From a fighter perspective, what's that like having a promotion throw all their marketing behind you?
Miguel Torres - It's a lot of responsibility. It was a lot for me to handle because I went from being relatively unknown or known in Indiana and Chicago to being known around the world. I was getting letters sent from all over the world. It was a lot because I didn't realize that the interview I was doing with the WEC was getting put out all over the world. I went from being known in my own town to being watched by millions. It was a lot to handle. Then the PR and the sponsorship side of it, it was a learning experience. It got to show me how the other side of the business works and that I got to be the face of the bantamweight division. I can't wait till the day I can get back to that level.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Is that a trip for you sometimes? You go from the regional scene to the Zuffa marketing machine. Is that a trip where it's hard to balance training and your family responsibilities with the responsibilities Zuffa expects of you?
Miguel Torres - Oh 100%. Especially in the beginning. I'd say "yes" to everything. I wouldn't say "no" to anything. Whatever the asked me to do interview-wise or do a PR trip, I would do it for them. It was right after the Mizugaki fight, I went to my after party and I want to say that my trip to Mexico was at six in the morning that I had to be at the airport. So I left my after party at 3:30, didn't get to see my daughter, didn't get to see my parents. I got in the car and drove to the airport to go to Mexico for five days to do a bunch of PR stuff. Mind you, I felt beaten to sh*t. My hands, my shoulders, my arms, my body, my face, my legs...everything was hurt. I get in a plane and get to Mexico. I get back from Mexico and go right to the UFC. There was a time for two and a half years that I went to almost every UFC and WEC. It's a trip. You go from watching the events at your house with your friends and your family to actually being at the events and having you sit in the front row with Dana White or sitting next to whoever. So it's surreal. I went from watching them on tv to watching them live sitting next to Randy Couture and hanging out with Chuck Liddell. It's a whole different scene. It's like a dream that came true. For me it was a lot to handle. Going into the Brian Bowles fight I did so much PR and traveling that I think I trained at home in my gym for like two and a half or three weeks. Everything else was done on the fly while I traveled. For me, I didn't know how to say know. I didn't know how to handle it. I'm glad everything happened the way it did and it taught me a very valuable lesson.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - During that run you were considered a top 5 pound for pound fighter. Is there any pressure added when fans and media hold you in such high regard?
Miguel Torres - There's always pressure when they hold you in that kind of a regard. But for me, I never really thought of that. Even from a local perspective, one day you're the best guy in the world and everybody's hero. Then you have a bad day and everyone is calling you garbage and you're watched up. So that was the thing going on in my hometown. I got to see how things worked out on a smaller scale so when I got in the WEC, I knew that was going to happen eventually because you can't make everybody happy all the time. People are very fickle because they don't understand the sport. They're there for their entertainment. They want to see guys get knocked out. Whoever knocks out the other person is going to be everyone's hero. I know that people are like that.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - So for the Nick Pace fight, you expanded the camp to not just TriStar but also down in Boca Raton, Florida to train with the Blackzilians and the Imperial guys. How did the training in Boca Raton differ from the looks you get in Montreal at TriStar?
Miguel Torres - It was different just because Van Arsdale and Tyrone Spong, those guys are very aggressive and very straight forward. We did a lot of drills and the wrestling is American style wrestling. The style up in Canada is a Russian style of wrestling so it's totally different. I just felt like the beat my ass in Boca Raton which is awesome. In Montreal we do a lot of hard training but it's a lot safer. It's a lot more drilling orientated to get a skill reaction. I like both because I come from a harder form of training and it reminded me of the old days at my gym.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Alright, so the fight with Nick Pace, it started with some controversy with him failing to make weight. You were pretty outspoken about it on twitter afterwards because he was unprofessional in failing to make weight. Did that add any fuel to the proverbial fire to really go out there and make an example out of him?
Miguel Torres - The big thing that it did to me was that it made me a little upset. I felt like I wasn't being respected as a fighter because he didn't try and make the weight. Being six pounds off the mark is huge. I got very upset. I'm very outspoken and I'm always going to tell you how I feel. I'm not gonna hide anything and that just really upset me. We were in the back and he tried to apologize to me and I didn't even want to shake his hand. He could apologize but he couldn't make the weight. If you were two pounds over or a pound over okay, I can see that you got fatigued or dehydrated but everybody cuts a lot of weight and at this level you have to make weight and he didn't even try which upset me. I don't want to say that it added fuel to the fight because I'm already very aggressive and go out there to fight hard but it added a little to just beat him up.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Your performance in that fight, what do you take away from the differences between that fight and the Banuelos fight and Demetrious Johnson fight?
Miguel Torres - The big thing is that I stuck with my footwork and used my range. I was throwing and landing more right hands. I was using my wrestling more. When I got taken down in the second round I got back up to my feet. I'm not trying to play guard anymore. I think the fight went very well. I hope that I get to keep expanding on those skills. When I fought Demetrious Johnson, I thought I could beat him in jiu jitsu. Even though I thought I did enough, the judges didn't appreciate that style of fight so from now on I'm gonna stop takedowns and if I'm get taken down I'm gonna get back up. Just put pressure on guys and punch them in the face.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - You've made a lot of sacrifices in your life, including living at your gym. Looking back, do you think that was the right decision not just in your career but in your personal life as well?
Miguel Torres - With your personal life, you always look back and think I could have done this better or different. I missed my family. I missed my daughter. I spent a lot of time away from home but the big thing from me is that I don't regret the opportunity that I have. A lot of people wish they could do what I do and wish they could be in my shoe. I can't waste the opportunity for my family, my friends, and my students. Every fight that I have, it's for them. When I do well, they do well. When I lose, they lose. So if I have to sacrifice time away from my family to make everyone happy and do well, I'm gonna do that. I know at the end of my run I'm gonna look back and I'm not gonna have any regrets. I know my daughter's future is gonna be secure and taken care of.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Alright, so for you, everything you're doing right now is for your daughter?
Miguel Torres - 100%. Before when I didn't have her, it was about me and making sure that I was doing well. I would have my mom and my dad out but it was mainly for myself. Once I had her that all changed. It put the responsibility on my shoulders and the guy I'm gonna fight is trying to take money out of her college fund or food out of her mouth.