Remember back in 2004, when Nelly and Tim McGraw recorded that terrible duet and then made a video utilizing the magic of split-screen technology to show us that – while they might look and sound very different – they were actually leading surprisingly similar parallel lives? Man, if only we could do the same thing with Miguel Torres and Fedor Emelianenko right now. This situation practically screams for a buddy comedy: One is a wise-cracking former bantamweight champion from Chicago who tweets like a madman and lives life in the fast lane. The other is a stoic Russian former heavyweight champion who prefers the quiet surroundings of Stary Oskol over the city and likely considers the internet a form of witchcraft. Oh brother, these two will never get along, right? Wrong.
Torres and Emelianenko are actually more alike than you might think, as Torres himself points out to MMA Fighting.com this week. Both guys were once the undisputed kings of their respective weight classes, but in recent times both have been cast into adversity by a pair of high profile defeats. It just so happens that Torres is a little bit further along the path to redemption than Emelianenko is, so he has some friendly professional advice for his unlikely spirit brother. Oh, also it kind of sounds like he’s totally pissed about the recent (unwarranted) criticism of his (winning) performance in his UFC debut. It’s all after the jump.
“(Fedor is) at a crossroads in his life …,” Torres tells MMA Fighting’s Matt Erickson. “He needs to adjust to the times and start working on being a cerebral fighter (again) and not a showman. He needs to play catch-up in a world he used to dominate. That stings really bad, but you man up or get left behind … I say yes, (he needs to leave Russia). Russia will always be his home, but he lacks growth. Sometimes loyalty can hold you back … People will critique you and hate you for leaving, call you names and judge you for doing what’s good for you. I feel Fedor’s situation. It fucking sucks, but shit happens. All we can do is get better – and fuck everyone else.”
Look, when it comes to digging himself out of his current hole, Emelianenko could do a lot worse than to heed the advice of Torres. The former WEC 135-pound champ probably felt like MMA’s viewing public left him for dead during 2009-10, when he lost back-to-back fights to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez. Since then, he’s rebounded with wins over Charlie Valencia and Antonio Banuelos but still has miles to go before he’s once again considered a candidate for a pound-for-pound ranking, as evidenced by his upcoming matchup with the middling Brad Pickett at UFC 130.
Still, Torres is doing it right. Like many high profile fighters before him, he recently left home to turn his career over to Firas Zahabi at TriStar gym in Montreal. He showed up for his official Octagon debut two weeks ago looking like a more complete, more intelligent fighter in outpointing Banuelos en route to a unanimous decision. The performance drew some criticism – and unfortunately it’s probably best that we leave for another day any discussion on how the UFC’s own broadcast team may or may not effect public perception on a grand scale – but was nonetheless effective. It has Torres poised to once again become a player on in the bantamweight division. On the other hand, making those changes wasn’t painless, Torres says.
“I left to find growth – and everyone hates me for it, saying I’m a deserter and forgot where I came from,” he says. “Even now, with my new style, people say I’m scared or not exciting. When I was training here, I didn’t give a fuck and fought for the fans. When I lost, everyone threw shit on me saying I was nobody. My new style is actually cerebral and smart. I don’t get hurt anymore, but lost fans. When I get the belt back, they will (love me) again, but I won’t care. I’m all grown up.”
Give Torres credit here for A) standing up for his own methods and B) saying what we’re all thinking about Fedor Emelianenko. It would be nice to see Fedor ditch the cozy confines of the Sport Palace in favor of one of the world’s top gyms, where a top trainer might be able to salvage his flagging career. While we’re not sure it’s entirely accurate to say “everyone hates” Miguel Torres for fighting a smart fight against Banuelos, if there are people out there giving him shit about it, we’re with Torres here: Fuck those people.