(Video courtesy MMAWeekly)
When Miguel Torres‘ longtime mentor and teacher, Carlson Gracie passed away in 2006, his protegee soon after ventured out on his own to open his own gym where he would train himself and a handful of up-and-coming fighters in Hammond, Indiana.
For a few years, the system seemed to be working as he continued to rack up wins and dominate all comers in the WEC.
Then, it happened on August 9, 2009.
After logging three strong minutes in the first round of his fourth title defense, Torres got floored by the right hand of challenger Brian Bowles and was knocked out by the follow-up barrage of ground-and-pound as he worked to secure an armbar.
Shaking off the loss, Torres figured spending more time training in the gym would get him back on track.
He was wrong.
In his next fight against fast-rising fighter Joseph Benevidez, he was finished by second-round submission and was left wondering what the hell happened.
After some soul searching, he came to the conclusion that being the big dog in the gym didn’t allow his skills to evolve and he decided to do something about it knowing that another loss could see him dropped by the WEC despite being only two fights removed from losing his title.
Torres hooked up with highly-regarded Montreal-based trainer, Firas Zahabi and his core group of coaches that includes strength and conditioning coach Jonathan Chaimberg and former Canadian Olympic boxers Otis and Howard Grant — the same group that turned UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre’s career around following his shocking loss to Matt Serra.
"The experience has been great. I got to go back and actually stay somewhere for the whole training camp and not be bothered with all of the mundane things of everyday life like running a business, having a family, having a ton of friends and doing a whole bunch of media. I focused solely on just training with a great coach, Firas Zahabi and his great team," Torres explained. "I had endless training partners who all day just cared about mixed martial arts. It’s not only made me a better fighter, it’s made me a better person. I know what I need to do to get back on top. I needed to become a student again and that’s what I’ve dedicated myself to."
Refocused, rejuvenated and settled in with his new team, Torres says that he prepared for his fight tonight with Charlie Valencia like it was the most important one of his career, and it might just be, considering what’s at stake.
He is confident that the time spent away from his gym and his family, which will be a regular occurrence as he readies for future fights, will pay off tonight and he credits Zahabi for not trying to reinvent him, but rather for reinvigorating him mentally and physically as a fighter.
"You’re not going to see a different Miguel Torres. You’ll see my same aggressive style, only it will be more cold and calculated. I’m going to take my time and I’m not gonna rush and go for the kill right away. I’m gonna stalk guys and punish them and let the opportunity present itself," Torres says. "Firas — one of the main things he pointed out about my game is that I chase guys too much; I hurt a guy and I chase him and run at him with my chin in the air. I can’t help it. I’m Mexican. That’s how I learned to fight. Firas has made me a smarter person. He made me humble and he smartened me up a lot."