For several years, Miguel Torres was one of the best mixed martial artists in the world, even though he was competing in relative obscurity.
Tonight, Torres will headline a World Extreme Cagefighting card at the Hard Rock Hotel that will air live on Versus (Cable 67).
The 27-year-old has emerged as one of the centerpieces of WEC through a combination of his own success and the business plan of the Zuffa-owned organization.
He is 34-1 and has not lost since he dropped a unanimous decision to Ryan Ackerman in November 2003, a defeat that Torres avenged with a first-round submission two years later.
Still, only the most hard-core fans of the sport had ever heard of Torres until he won the WEC bantamweight title in February.
Since then, Torres has successfully defended his title once, and the WEC has eliminated its middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. In fact, the one light heavyweight bout on the card tonight will be the last in the upper classes for the WEC. The loss of those two high-profile divisions has put greater focus on Torres and other WEC stars in the lower weights.
Former featherweight champion Urijah Faber, previously the unquestioned face of the organization, was knocked out by Mike Brown in an upset last month, further turning the spotlight toward Torres.
“It’s just more attention, and with that comes more money,” Torres said. “So it’s been all positive.”
Torres, ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 in nearly all major rankings, claims his only goal within his sport is to be one of the best fighters in the world.
When reminded that he might have already achieved that, he clarified the answer.
“I want to erase any doubt in anyone’s mind,” he said.
Torres defends his belt against Manny Tapia tonight.
Tapia (10-0-1) is excited about the opportunity to take out a fighter who is at the top of his game.
“I’ve never been so clear-minded going into a fight,” Tapia said. “I’m a 4-to-1 underdog. I’ve always been the favorite. I’ve never been beaten. I don’t know how they get those odds.”
The fight headlines a 10-bout card scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. Live television coverage begins at 5.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@ reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.