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Miguel Torres on MMA Rankings and His Admiration for Shinya Aoki

Miguel Torres is America's best mixed martial artist. On both my own list of the Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in MMA and in Yahoo's poll of MMA journalists, Torres is topped only by Russia's Fedor Emelianenko, Brazil's Anderson Silva and Canada's Georges St Pierre. In the next 10 days, leading up to his World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight title defense against Japan's Takeya Mizugaki on April 5 in Chicago, I'll be posting a number of articles about this country's top MMA athlete. Up first is a portion of my lengthy interview with Torres, in which he discusses his opinions on the best fighters in the world.

Michael David Smith: Frank Mir told me that he thinks you're the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. What do you think?
Miguel Torres: I don't know if there is one best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. It's too hard to rank the top guys because anything can happen at any time. I think there's a top group of fighters who are the best in the world, and if I had to rank myself, I'd probably put myself in the Top 5 because of the way I've dominated my weight class. No one in my weight class has given me a huge test yet. That's not to say there's no one who can do it, but I haven't faced him yet.

Even though you think it's hard to rank people, if you have to rank, who would be your top 5?
For sure Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre. And I like Shinya Aoki's style a lot, so I'd put Shinya Aoki in there, and also B.J. Penn. Those are the guys I try to look at and emulate their styles, in one form or another.

I'm a little surprised you put Shinya Aoki in your Top 5. What makes you rank him so highly?
His grappling style. He's the most dangerous fighter in the world on the ground. His stand-up isn't the best, and on his feet he isn't very threatening but I think once he gets you to the ground, he'll finish you. He's one of those fighters that you can't take him for granted because he's dangerous from any position on the ground. I think if he fought in the States he'd be a very dangerous fighter.

Would you like to challenge yourself against him some day?

I'd love to fight him. I'd love even more to be able to train with him. I don't have many people I look up to, but he's one of those fighters who has jiu jitsu made for mixed martial arts. He tailors his jiu jitsu for mixed martial arts. The way he attacks, the way he moves, the way he defends and the way he goes about his game.

I'm always amazed by how creative his submissions look. I see submissions from him that don't look like the submissions from other fighters.
That's the whole thing. He thinks outside the box. He puts a twist on submissions that other guys can't do. That's kind of similar to my game, I just think he takes it to a different level because he doesn't use as much striking as I use. I like a lot of his transitions. I also like the way he does things differently, the spandex pants he wears, his effective use of the rubber guard. He does a lot of things that other fighters don't do. I think that's the next stage in the evolution of MMA, finding things other fighters don't do.

Do you know Shinya Aoki personally?
No, I don't know him but I look forward to meeting him one day. If I could ever go and train with him and learn from him, I would try to.

Speaking of creative moves, in your last fight, against Manny Tapia, you did a front roll axe kick. Where did that come from?
I was doing that for a while. I've done it before. I watched an old kung fu movie and a guy did that with metal heels and he split a guy's head open. I love that move, the front roll, I end up on my back and I can try an upkick or a leg submission. I was planning on doing it when I had Manny against the fence, but instead I did it too soon and he was able to back away from it. But when I did it, he had a look on his face like, "Holy s**t, dude, that was pretty crazy."

I do moves like that because I don't see myself ever being in a bad position in a fight. I don't mind being on the ground, so if I miss and I'm on the ground and he comes at me he's going to be in my guard or he's going to be in my half guard, which is dangerous. And if I do hit him it's going to hurt.

Are there any other unusual moves you've been working on that we might see on April 5?
I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve that I haven't used in my fights yet. I've been developing things for a long time. Aerial submissions, leg attacks, striking moves, combinations that I've put together. There are moments in time in a fight when you can use them, but you can't just go out and do them whenever. The fight against Tapia, there were a couple of things I wanted to do that didn't happen. Other fights you'll just stick to a standard style of fighting. I think the more comfortable I get in a fight, the more tricks you're going to see out of me. I have a couple tricks up my sleeve that I haven't used yet and I'll use them at the right time. You've got to have some things you keep in your back pocket.

Coming up next: Torres discusses the toughest opponent he ever fought.