In less than four years Tecia Torres has climbed the ranks of Invicta FC, collected signature wins over Paige VanZant, Rose Namajunas, and Felice Herig, endured The Ultimate Fighter house, and established herself in the upper echelons of the UFC’s evolving strawweight division. She has done all this, despite having her mind set not only on MMA excellence, but also on the career she wants to have after her cage-fighting days are over.
The diminutive 26-year-old, who is a mainstay of American Top Team’s vaunted women’s fight team, is a full-time student. Currently she is working towards a Masters in Criminology at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton. At the same school, in 2010, Torres earned Bachelors with a double major in Criminal Justice and Sociology.
This summer Torres’ classes are offered online, meaning her two-a-day training regime in Coconut Creek is little disturbed. However, this past spring - in addition to hitting the mats at ATT twice a day everyday, she was also attending classes three times a week between 7 and 10pm. This, combined with homework and UFC promotional obligations, meant Torres had little time for anything else.
“I had to schedule girl time months in advance,” laughed Torres. That same hectic schedule is awaiting her in the fall. Torres conceded that time-management of her post-grad studies has been the most challenging aspect of her academic career, especially early on. “That was really hard,” remembered Torres. “But I got it down, and I’m able to work things out with my coaches, and sometimes they understand that I have to leave a practice early because I need more time to study or I have to change things up because something came up with a class that was unexpected.”
Thanks in part to having coaches who encourage her both in martial arts and in her academic goals, Torres was able to achieve straight As last semester. “I’m really proud of that, because I worked my butt off for it,” shared Torres.
Torres, who is recognized occasionally on campus, is currently on course to graduate in the spring of 2017. And the Tiny Tornado knows exactly what she wants to come next. “My ultimate goal would be to work within the federal government,” said Torres. “Anywhere from working with juveniles, to immigration issues, and sex trafficking, those three are my main interests.” Torres has a number of motivating factors pushing her in these directions, some are noble, others are plain practical.
“I just really enjoy having the opportunity to help people one day,” stated Torres. “And I think doing something within the federal government is a good secure job, so I just want to have a good job to feed a family one day.” A far less secure job is that of a professional mixed-martial-artist, especially - some might argue - for a female competitor. Since the beginning of her MMA career Torres was certain she would one day call upon at least her undergrad qualifications. Now deep into her post-grad Torres is beginning to formulate a more concrete exit strategy from the sport.
“I would honestly like to stop by thirty,” revealed Torres. “That’s in my head, because I would like to start a family then, but you never know what’s going to happen. I need to be in a certain situation for that in my personal life, I would say thirty would be good for me, if I could reach my goals in the UFC in the next three years or so.” Predictably Torres’ UFC goal is hoisting a championship belt. However, though she spoke passionately about lifting a title, it did feel dwarfed by the intensity in which she discussed the chance to contribute to the fight against society’s ills, especially sexual trafficking.
A keen interest in the subject matter began for Torres thanks to the work of her Aunt, who works with victims of sexual trafficking in and around Providence, Rhode Island. In the US Department for Health and Human Services sponsored study entitled Human Trafficking Into and Within the United States, by Heather J. Clawson, Nicole Dutch, Amy Solomon, and Lisa Goldblatt Grace it was estimated that between 240,000 and 325,000 children in the United States are at risk for sexual exploitation each year. This includes the risk of being trafficked into the sex industry. According to the US State Department, thousands of women and children from other countries are also trafficked into the United States each year for sexual exploitation. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center offers a hotline for tipsters and victims of sexual trafficking. Between January and April 2016, the hotline received 6,051 calls, resulting in 1,654 human traffic cases being reported. The majority of reported cases came from California (305), Texas (141), and Florida (136). These three States also had the most reported cases in each of the last four years.
Torres, a resident of Florida, is especially focused on what is happening in her own backyard. “Here in South Florida, we have a big problem with [sexual trafficking], in regards to just massage parlors and stuff like that,” said Torres. “They are often fronts where these people deal in sex trafficked women.” On February 19th, 2016, ABC news affiliate Local 10 reported that Miami was, “among the top three cities in US for human trafficking.”
“Sometimes these girls, who are promised things by older men, have issues with their families - with their fathers,” offered Torres. “Maybe it’s the first time they’ve heard, ‘I love you’, and they believe them, and they get caught up in this thing and then they have no way out.”
Torres can empathize with young women and girls who find themselves trapped in this manner. Though she took a far different path (thanks largely to martial arts), she too suffered from a difficult upbringing and a less than ideal family situation. As if already primed for the life of a secretive agent, Torres opted to keep her past mostly guarded. “I don’t want to talk much about this,” she apologized as she described her family as, “probably on the opposite side” of where she wants to be in the federal government.
“I always had an interest in law,” recounted Torres. “Maybe because my family was within the criminal justice system when I was younger, I decided that I wanted to be on the other side of it, and help people get out of a rough situation, you know, growing up I had a pretty rough childhood.”
When weighing what Torres aims to do in the near future against what she has had to deal with in her past, it seems that the fighter/student’s true ambition is to be the kind of savior she herself would have appreciated during her most difficult years. When asked if this theory held water, Torres took her time. “I don’t know,” she answered, through what sounded like a wry smile. “I don’t want to say yes, but... maybe.”
Torres’ coyness over what drives her (though she did also cite a fondness for Quantico as a motivating factor) seeped away when she was asked about what her dream life would look like once she had walked away from the UFC. “I mean, if it could be like the movies: I would be some bad-ass SWAT agent, or FBI agent, taking down criminals and then coming home to my handsome husband and little baby,” laughed Torres before ending her dream off in typical storybook fashion, “And then we live happily ever after.”