Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Miguel Torres was just as surprised as the rest of the MMA community when the UFC handed him his walking papers last week.
Torres, the former WEC bantamweight champion, had been relegated to the sidelines since falling to 21-year-old Michael McDonald via first-round knockout last April. While the loss was certainly a setback, McDonald is arguably the division's No. 1 contender, so Torres never thought he would be shown the door so flippantly, especially four months after the fact.
"I have no idea, man," Torres admitted on this week's episode of The MMA Hour.
"I was upset, but I'm not going to try to sit there and contemplate why things happen. More, just react to them and get back on the horse and keep rolling. I've done too much in my career to sit down and contemplate why. I don't ask why, I just ask what's next."
True to his word, following his release Torres quickly inked a deal with Titan Fighting Championships, joining his ex-UFC colleague Anthony "Rumble" Johnson in the Kansas-based promotion.
According to Torres, he initially mulled the idea of starting his own fight promotion, however Titan FC swooped in with the short-term contract he coveted and a plan to build an entire card around him, with one particularly enticing caveat -- the event would be held in Torres' hometown of Hammond, Indiana. The last time Torres fought locally was back in 2007, before even his WEC days, and the prospect of competing in front of friends and family was just too enticing to reject.
"What made me what I am today is coming from the area and environment that I grew up in," Torres explained. "To be able to come back to this environment and fight for my fans and my family, for me, it's refreshing.
"They miss watching my fights. It gets pretty emotional, and when the news broke out here, nearly every kid in my gym was so excited because they're able to watch me fight live."
Thus far Torres isn't sure who he'll face for his Nov. 2 debut with Titan FC, or even the weight class the fight will be contested at. He hopes to compete at his traditional weight of 135 pounds against the most qualified man Titan can sign -- mentioning fellow Hammond resident Jeff Curran as an option -- however he'd be more than willing to inflate to featherweight if it meant a step up in competition.
Of course, it's hard not to speak about such matters without mentioning one stark fact -- nearly all of the top competition lies in the UFC. For Torres, it's a dilemma he never saw coming, even after an unceremonious first release last December stemming from a regrettable rape-related comment made on Twitter.
By all accounts, Torres thought he had patched up his relationship with the Zuffa brass in the ensuing weeks after the scandal, which saw him earn his way back into Dana White's good graces, and thus, the UFC. But now, after another abrupt release that reports have labelled a disciplinary action, he finds himself revisiting the question.
"You know, I thought I was pretty good on Twitter," Torres mused. "I didn't think I said anything too crazy. I think, pretty much after what happened to me last time, everybody's on their best behavior. I'm pretty sure that might have factored in there somehow, but I always do my best and I always go out there and put up a fight, win or lose."
As is human nature in these situations, Torres also can't help but look back at the loss to McDonald. One of the UFC's brightest up-and-comers, McDonald did his fair share of pre-event trash talk. Torres readily admits, it may have gotten into his head come fight time.
"I let a lot of the hype and even some of his words get to me," he concedes. "A lot of people wanted me to go out there and bang, be the old Miguel Torres instead of going out there and being smart. The gameplan was to be smart because he knocks a lot of guys out in the first round. That was gameplan, but for me, hearing a lot of the people, I guess it got into my head close to the fight and I was like, ‘screw it, I'm going to go out there and bang with this guy.' And I went out there and did, and I got caught."
It's true, recent times have seen fight fans pine for ‘the old Miguel Torres.' However, according to the former champ, "the old Miguel Torres is very impatient. He just wants to go out there and fight." And after making such a pivotal error against McDonald, reverting back to his old tendencies is a mistake Torres isn't likely to repeat.
Ultimately, Torres has been grinding away for over 12 years, and this latest setback isn't even close to enough to stop him. At 31 years old, he still loves the game and he knows he has plenty of miles left in the tank.
"I want to fight until, at least, 35 [years old]," Torres concluded. "My body's doing extremely well. I don't have any serious injuries. I don't feel tired of fighting, I don't feel tired of training, and that's the biggest thing for me. I know in my mind, when I get up and I don't want to train anymore, when I get up and don't want to put the time into the hard work, then it's time to call it quits."
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