Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 | 12:31 p.m.
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The training camp Miguel Torres is using to prepare for a March 6 meeting with Joseph Benavidez in Columbus is much different than the one he used for his WEC bantamweight title defense against Brian Bowles in August.
After getting knocked out and losing his title in that fight, Torres moved his camp from Chicago to Las Vegas earlier this month and surrounded himself with new partners and coaches.
At least one thing hasn't changed from his old ways, though. He still refuses to wear headgear during practice — a habit he said he picked up from the earliest stages of his career.
"No headgear for me," said Torres, after a recent hour-long sparring session in which he wore no protection. "I don't encourage to spar without headgear, but I get bothered by it. When I started this sport, I was training in garages and didn't even know what headgear was.
"For the first five or six years, that's what training was to me — all-out fights."
Torres will end his nearly four-week stay in Las Vegas on Jan. 27, when he's scheduled to return to his Chicago home. He'll be there for three days before wrapping up his camp with a month-long visit to Boston.
The fighter said the decision to make such drastic changes to his fight preparations was based on a number of problems he had before the Bowles fight.
With its fighter riding a 17-fight win streak at the time, Torres said his camp became cocky and lost sight of the learning process.
"I've used the same training partners for 11 or 12 years, and I haven't brought any of them back for this fight," Torres said. "What ended up happening was — I wasn't getting cocky, they got cocky. They would say, 'Oh, you're going to kill this guy. He's only got seven fights.'
"The guys I had coaching me were there just to give me water and talk my face off. They weren't giving me anything I could use. Looking back, I can see there were a lot of things off. But I was in a bubble at the time and couldn't see it."
Torres said he's had no issues taking his camp on the road, something he did a lot of earlier in his career before he owned his own gym.
He's spent his time in Las Vegas living in a home provided by a sponsor and will stay with trainer Mark Dellagrotte when he goes to Boston.
However, Torres admits he's had to make sacrifices as well — the hardest being the time he's spent away from his 2-year-old daughter.
"Not seeing her hurts," Torres said. "I call her all the time and she said, 'Where are you daddy? Come home.' I'm taking the time away to make her future better, but at the same time, I'm missing it a little bit."
Torres said the loss to Bowles has also taught him to stop worrying about putting on a show for the fans, something he's been doing his entire career.
Looking for the exciting finish was part of what got Torres in trouble in his last fight, as Bowles caught him with a right hook when he came charging in.
"I want to change the way I finish fights," Torres said. "I was trying to go out there and put on a show, impress the crowd and make them look at the 135-pound division. I've done that enough. It's time to put my health and safety first."
It may seem strange to some that a former WEC champion with an overall professional mark of 37-2 would want to change so much after only his first loss in nearly six years — but not to Torres.
The 29-year-old fighter said that even in the unpredictable sport of mixed martial arts, it's possible to win every single fight.
"I believe you can win every fight," Torres said. "This is a chance for me to come back and show I can be a better fighter. I don't think your wins define your career, I think you're defined by how you come back from a loss.
Torres's only other loss was back in 2003 against Ryan Ackerman in a show in his hometown of Hammond, Ind.
Torres, 20-0 at the time, said he nearly finished the fight in the first round before feeling his legs go out because of a previous knee injury he had suffered.
With no strength in his lower body, Torres clearly dropped the final two rounds and lost by unanimous decision.
"After the first round ended and I was walking back to my corner, I never felt my legs like that before," Torres remembers. "I sat down and looked at my cornermen and said, 'My legs are gone.' Both their mouths dropped.
"The next two rounds were like a bad dream. I was on my back the whole time."
Following that fight, Torres pursued an immediate rematch but said Ackerman chose to fight in another promotion.
In 2005, almost exactly two years after their first meeting, Torres finally got his shot at redemption and submitted Ackerman in the first round.
"I kept him in mind everyday until I fought him again," Torres said. "I wanted to fight him again right away but he didn't want to fight in the same promotion, he wanted me to go to Wisconsin. But there were no shows that would pay us what we were getting in Chicago.
"I went on a tear the next two years, finally got the rematch and destroyed him. That was a pretty good feeling."
It's unlikely Torres will have to wait two years for another shot at Bowles, who also is scheduled on the March 6 card in a title defense against Dominick Cruz .
When asked if he'll secretly be cheering for Bowles that night in the hope their rematch would again be for the WEC belt, Torres said absolutely not.
From his own experience, Torres believes fighters are at their best following a loss. And the best version of Brian Bowles is the one he wants.
"I want Cruz to win," Torres said. "I want Brian to lose. He'll want to come back strong and then I'll have the best Brian Bowles there is. If he loses that fight against Dominick and he loses the belt, I wouldn't want a fight with Cruz. I would want Brian Bowles.
"A rematch with Brian is more important to me than a title shot."