MMA Champ: “Kill Me to Take It Away From Me”

Miguel Torres will defend his title at the UIC Pavilion on Sunday

One of the world's best mixed martial artists is not only a proud native of Chicagoland, but he will also be defending his belt this weekend in his hometown. Hammond's own Miguel Torres is the bantamweight champion of the World Extreme Cagefighting Championship and ranked fourth on Yahoo! Sports' MMA pound-for-pound rankings, and he will fight Takeya Mizugaki this Sunday at the UIC Pavilion. NBC Chicago caught up with him at his gym, Torres Martial Arts.

You grew up in the region, and you have stayed there to build your business and family. What draws you to Hammond?
I draw strength from being in my neighborhood. When I go running, I see the abandoned mills, I see the junkyards, I see the abandoned homes, I see the people, and it reminds me of what I had to come through, where I came from. That reminds me that I need to stay on top of my game, and the guy I'm fighting, he doesn't know what it took. It's taken me a long time to get where I am. I'm not going to give it up very easily. He's going to have to kill me to take it away from me. Being in this environment reminds me of that.

Have you ever used your martial arts skills to protect yourself?

One guy knew I was a fighter, so he was trying to impress a few girls. I knew he was going to hit me. The circle had formed around us, and I knew it was going to happen. He got in my face, and he was being so belligerent. He was so close to my face that he was spitting on me, so I just headbutted him. I don't know if I broke his nose, but it was bleeding out of both sides. He fell down, and the bouncers threw him out, but that was it.

You've fought most of your fights in Chicagoland. Since you've last fought here, the MMA scene has exploded. Do you think you've had a role in that process?
I’ve had a huge role in the process. I've fought in a bars and clubs, and you could hear people saying this guy's going to get smashed. The fight would go to the ground, and they'd yell, "You're gay," or "Hey, get up," because they just want to see somebody get knocked out. But then the next year, people are saying, "He's in his guard," or "He's going for an armbar," trying to explain to their buddies what's going on, and then the year after that, you have three or four guys having the discussion, "I think he's going for the triangle, no, watch the armbar," and it's just an education process. The fact that I wasn't a strict striker, or a strict grappler, but that I was able to blend my styles, and force guys in situation made people around here aware of the different styles. When you've got two wrestlers, all you get is a wrestling match, and people boo. But when you've got a guy on bottom who is throwing submissons, and sweeps, and kicks, and strikes, all at the same time, that's very interesting. It's a display of art, and people like art. You go to a show in Hammond now, and when the fight goes to the ground, you see people get on their feet and cheer. I think I had a huge role in that.

What does it mean for you to be defending your title in front of your home crowd?

I left a regional champ, and I come back, and I'm a world champion. Everyone had big plans and big ideas for me, and everyone wanted to see me fight, but they didn't know when about the WEC, and they couldn't make it out to Vegas. Now they get to come see me here.

This weekend is a treat for Chicago MMA fans. Tickets are still available for Sunday's WEC event. You can also meet two of your favorite fighters, Urijah Faber and Clay Guida, at MMA Stop in Lombard on Friday at 6 p.m. You can also read the other two parts of the Miguel Torres interview here and here.

 Maggie Hendricks is a lifelong Chicagoan who loves sports and a good arm bar. She also writes for Cage Writer, Yahoo! Sports' MMA blog, and Fourth-Place Medal, Yahoo! Sports' Olympic blog.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us