World Extreme Cagefighting's 135-pound champ Miguel Torres puts his belt up for grabs tonight against unbeaten Manny Tapia on Versus. There's no shortage of Torres backers. They come from Mexico, a depressed midwest town and even an MMA writer.
Torres, 27, is an engaging guy and one the most exciting fighters in the world. He can bring it standing with his punches and kicks. And he's a submission whiz on the ground. With Urijah Faber having to fight his way back after an upset loss last month, Torres (pictured on the right) has a chance to be the face of the promotion. That's all great. But the real reason to root for the kid is for where he's come from and what he's doing to payback old debts:
"In the fight [game], anything can happen. I take it in stride. I don't forget where I come from, I don't forget who I am and I know my roots. So, as far as me being the golden boy, I wouldn't even call it that."
Roman Modrowski of the Chicago Sun-Times points out that Torres' hometown of East Chicago, Ind. wasn't exactly Southern California or Rio de Janiero when it came to producing a top flight mixed martial artist:
Where Torres comes from is a city hit hard by the struggles of the steel industry. There is a lot of unemployment and crime in my hometown, which is predominantly Hispanic.
Torres wanted to be a boxer but there was nowhere to hone his skills as a kid:
"There was no boxing available in my town. My family didn't have a lot of money, so we couldn't pay for karate lessons or anything. So the community center was giving away free lessons for like a month and I started taking them. I had a big interest, when I started taking karate, I just loved it so much. I would watch (Samurai) Sunday every weekend with my dad, and Bruce Lee movies and the old Kung Fu movies and I was always mystified by martial arts. And the older I got, I started working, I was able to pay for lessons. Fighting just came natural to me and I’ve stuck to it ever since."
Torres is paying back the Chicagoland area with his own gym, Torres Martial Arts in Hammond, Ind. You can guarantee that he's got lots of students rooting for him as well as some fighters who say he belongs right there with Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn in the pound-for-pound talk.