The fall of 2011 was a cathartic one for Torres. After experiencing untold problems with previous management, Torres finally had enough. A meeting with Authentic Sports Management head Glenn Robinson in Houston led to an invitation to train at the Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton, Florida.
He journeyed to Florida and began training with the self-named Blackzilians. His first day at Imperial Athletics got off to a rough start when he and Maldonado missed their flights from Chicago. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Torres was worried that he would be too late to train with anyone, but K-1 star Tyrone Spong volunteered to stick around and hold pads. Spong, one of the deadliest strikers in the world, with legs the size of tree trunks and one hell of an impressive resume, wanted to see what Torres had.
It was a match made in heaven, or at least, in Boca Raton.
“Within five minutes, Tyrone had me throwing five times harder than I ever had,” Torres says. “He just changed some little things around. We clicked right away.”
Torres signed with Robinson, embarking on a completely new and unfamiliar phase of his career. He spent two weeks in Florida and then traveled, with Spong in tow, to Montreal to continue his camp with Zahabi.
The decision to sign with Robinson and Authentic Sports Management was a purifying moment for Torres, a fighter who constantly struggled to make ends meet even while fighting on the biggest stage in the sport. For the first time in a long time, his training and financial situation came together as a whole, giving him a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt in a long time.
“It’s a big relief. When I met Firas and all of these guys, it felt good training-wise. But there were still issues. I got audited twice and I had $60,000 in bills to pay with only $10,000 in the bank. I didn’t know what to do,” Torres says. “I had the gym, I had my daughter. I have all of these things to take care of, and now I have this huge bill, and they’re telling me that if I don’t repay it within 2 months, they’re going to repossess my shit.
“It’s just a lot of pressure. I don’t want to delve too much into my personal stuff, but there were just a lot of issues. I did seminars and training and whatever I needed to do to pay my bills, but I always ended up at zero again. And I would be at zero with the idea of ‘what’s going to happen next,’ you know? Was there something that I owed that I didn’t know about? But now I’ve gotten that straightened out.”
There comes a time in human life when the things that burden you become so heavy that the only real outlet is to vent your frustration. Torres did that last week, taking to Facebook to describe his financial situation and to send a message to people back home that he believed weren’t being honest with themselves or others. It offered a rare look into the mind of a fighter struggling to cope with things he could no longer carry by himself, and it hit home. Letting go was a release for Torres, who found himself free, for the first time in his career, to focus exclusively on the fight at hand, the one that takes place inside of a cage.
“It’s a lot, but people don’t understand what it takes to go through this. I didn’t just start two years ago, you know? I’ve been doing this for a long time. There are a lot of responsibilities, and I’ve worn a lot of hats. Every time I’ve tried to get someone to help me, to wear one of my hats, they’ve screwed me over,” he says. “So it’s hard to trust people with my heart. But as you get older, you get wiser. You stay on the bike and you keep riding.”
Maldonado has seen the change in Torres. “It’s one of those things that he held in for a long time. He wants to help people. But it comes to a point where you just try to help someone so much, you have to eventually stop,” Maldonado says. “And now he’s settled. The line is drawn, and you’re either on this side or that side. And the guys that are on the other side? They’re not going to come back. The ones who are his true friends, the ones who are supportive, are going to at least approach him and tell him they’re sorry, that they want to figure it out. It definitely settles who is with you and who is against you.”
I take Torres back to the moment in the hallway with Pace, where the guy who grew up watching him destroy opponents said hello and received nothing in return. It was a strange moment. Go back to the old high school days in Indiana and all of the moments where Torres tried to work his way to respectability, to overcome his size and the odds and the anger to become something more than he was. Surely Torres had heroes, much like the way Pace looks up to him now, and surely those heroes drove Torres to the kind of success he may not have achieved on his own.
Does that count for anything?
“I don’t care if he thought I was his hero. It doesn’t mean anything to me. When I go out there and fight somebody, I want to destroy them. It just doesn’t matter to me. The way I look at it, he’s meat and I need food. In the crudest sense, that’s how I feel.
“I lost the last fight and everyone thought I was done, or that I was weak. That’s so far from the truth. I swear that my wrestling has improved one-hundred percent. By next year, it’s going to be even stronger,” he says. “Everything happens for a reason. If I would have beaten Demetrious, I would have gone to Montreal right away. I would have kept my same management situation. I would still have all of these problems. I wouldn’t see my daughter and I’d still have all of this stress. Even if I beat Dominick Cruz, I’d still have this host of 5’2” miniature wrestlers waiting for me.
“It all happens for a reason. I wouldn’t have met Tyrone, I wouldn’t have signed with Glenn. There’s a whole lot of good that came out of me losing to Demetrious. You don’t see the bigger picture until it’s painted, and I’m just painting in the corner of the picture right now.”