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There’s only so much Tecia Torres knows and only so much she can prepare, but she’s doing everything she can think of. The undefeated 115 pound MMA contender is set to leave her Florida home in late spring or early summer to take part in the next Ultimate Fighter reality show competition.
“Honestly I wish we had a little bit more details but all I know is that the date we leave is supposed to be in late spring or early summer,” Torres tells Cagewriter.
“Right now, there’s only a little bit more time left so I don’t have that much time to prep. What I’m doing right now before I leave is pay my bills and take care of personal stuff.”
This season of TUF will have the series’ biggest prize in the show’s history – a UFC belt. To start the promotion’s new 115 pound women’s division, the UFC brought over most of Invicta FC’s top 115 pounders and put them on the show.
Unlike past seasons of TUF, this season isn’t filled with prospects, but with elite fighters in a weight class who are just a couple steps away from a title. So, the opportunity is big for the 24 year old Torres.
Given that she doesn’t even know when she’ll be called and plucked from her normal life, team and society in general to move for a couple months to the TUF House, Torres is just trying to train as much as possible and leave her personal affairs in order.
“When I go in there, my coaches will definitely be in my heart and mind. Everybody is a potential opponent on the show so I’ve got to be ready for fifteen different styles,” she says.
“I’m upping my game in all aspects – striking, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling - so I can be ready for every single thing. All my coaches and teammates who have been on TUF or Fight Master before have given me advice. My coaches have looked at tape of a lot of the girls on the show. We haven’t gone into detail about game plans, we are just working on the basics. From what I hear the biggest issue is the mental aspect of being on the show. Weight cutting won’t be an issue for me. But not having access to the world and your people is a mental challenge.”
Not only will Torres live with potential opponents while filming TUF, she’s already fought a number of the other cast. “The Tiny Tornado” can’t speak for how the other women will approach the awkward situation, but she claims to not have any particular axes to grind.
“I don’t know if the other girls will be weird, and not talk to anybody,” she says.”
“I’ve never been in a situation like this before. I have been to summer camp when I was young. It will probably be a little different from that because we’re grown women and fighting for one prize, though [laughs].
"I don’t have beef with anybody. Carla Esparza has kind of called me out already because I beat her best friend Felice Herrig. So, if there’s beef in the house, it will be them towards me. I’m not going to be the one to do that but if they want to, I’ll be there. I’m sure it will make for good television.”
The entirety of the situation may still be too surreal for Torres for her to get caught up in hypothetical TUF House beefs. The undefeated contender may seem on the rise in the sport, but – like season 1 winner Forrest Griffin before her - she was actually on her way out of the sport before getting a call from UFC president Dana White.
“I loved fighting and wanted to do it but it wasn’t something I necessarily thought of as a career path to make money,” Torres reveals.
“I thought I could do this for awhile and go back to kickboxing if I needed to. I didn’t think of it as a career until Invicta signed me. But even then, I was coming to a point where I was going to probably have to stop fighting full-time. Invicta treats the girls well but it wasn’t enough to make a living off of. I’m 24 now and I told my mom that if, by 25, it doesn’t happen for me in MMA, I would realistically go back to work. I went to college and studied criminal justice. I always thought I was going to be a cop until I decided that I didn’t want to harm or kill anyone.”
Torres’ only chance to continue to fight full-time, then, was if the UFC decided to pluck Invicta’s top fighters and sign them to the promotion. Torres heard rumors but didn’t get her hopes up.
“Honestly, all we heard about it were rumors. All of the sudden there were rumors that the UFC was going to sign us, then the rumor was that they weren’t going to do it. I thought, ‘if it happens, great. If not, I’ll start another career.’ I would still have fought, I just would not have been as active. Then, Dana called,” she remembers.
“I got a call and it was from a Nevada number. My boyfriends said, ‘that’s Dana White,’ but I thought that was crazy. It was also like 10pm. But then I answer it and the voice says, ‘Hi, this is Dana White.’ I thought, ‘No [expletive] way. But he said, ‘yeah it’s me.’ He told me that he just wanted to welcome me to the UFC and season 20 of TUF. He told me that the show winner would be the champion and some other quick details. It was just about 10 minutes.”
Torres’ whirlwind then began and she is now suddenly closer to goals she and many other women didn’t think were attainable just a few months ago. More than that, Torres may have the additional pressure of being seen as a favorite in the TUF 20 tournament, since she’s managed to beat several other top fighters in her brief pro career.
The American Top Team fighter brushes that notion aside, however. “Some people ask me that – if I think I’m a favorite. I don’t think of myself in that way at all,” she says.
“I definitely know that people are calling me a favorite. But, in reality, I don’t have that much pro experience. Most of the other girls have a lot more experience than me. In my head, I’m the underdog. I don’t want to be in any other mindset. I’m going into this 0-0.”