Miguel Angel Torres’ return to MMA action this weekend at World Series of Fighting 6 has gone mostly unnoticed by fans and media alike.
It makes me wonder, how many of you remember the Miguel Angel Torres I remember?
I mean, the Miguel Angel Torres who seemed to stand alone on top of MMA’s Bantamweight division? Remember him — the guy who made you want to follow that division in the first place? (For that matter, maybe he was even the guy made you want to watch WEC in the first place?)
In 2009, Miguel Angel Torres was listed among the top five in the world pound-for-pound.
He was one intense dude, too.
Torres was a guy who had cut his teeth as a youth in barely-legal fights in the Midwest MMA circuit, fighting bigger and badder grown men, and beating them down one after another — sometimes several in one night. He was one of Carlson Gracie’s last wave of students, along with Stephan Bonnar. The classic Carlson Gracie bulldog logo adorned his academy in East Chicago, and it seemed burned into his fighting spirit.
In one interview, the wiry Torres famously fancied himself a samurai who stood on top of a hill, slashing every opponent who dared approach… and he pretty much had it right. By 2009, Torres had amassed a spectacular 38-1 record and the WEC Bantamweight championship belt. He scored highlight-reel submission victories with his jiu-jitsu acumen, including a guillotine choke finish of Chase Beebe to win the title. Defenses of the title included a showdown with fellow Mexican-American battler Manny Tapia, who would find himself a TKO victim of Torres’ punches and elbows.
Decision victories were few and far between. Miguel Angel Torres was a a finisher, and Miguel Angel Torres stood alone. A memorable feature from photojournalist Tracy Lee followed Torres’ life at his academy, and with his beautiful family. It was a glorious rise and we all wondered, what’s next?
Well, what happened is… things went sour, and somewhere, that fire seemed to go out.
In August of 2009, Torres lost his title in a KO loss to Brian Bowles, who muscled Torres around the cage and finished him with punches. Then, he was finished by a guillotine choke at the hands of Joseph Benevidez.
The fire seemed to diminish. Torres switched camps several times. Somewhere in there, he divorced as well. Other distractions have included being fired from the UFC over a social media posting in 2011, and an arrest on marijuana possession charges in August.
In one interview, he gushed about his new training at Tristar gym in Montreal, famous for Georges St-Pierre. He would be a new man, he described. Torres even described how he was, shockingly, demoting himself from his jiu-jitsu black belt, and would begin wearing a brown again.
He would score some victories in the ensuing stretch, showing more of a crouched boxing style in his standup — said to be adopted from Mark DelaGrotte, one of MMA’s most respected trainers.
Still, he has won only three of his last eight bouts, and finds himself off the radar of most fans.
It’s not success that’s missed from watching Torres fight. It’s that fire which I miss.
Win or lose Saturday, that’s what I’m hoping to see again.