In just 13 months, Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres has won eight fights and captured three championship titles. The 23-year-old American Top Team fighter made a successful pro debut for Invicta Fighting Championships earlier this month and is currently one of MMA’s fastest rising prospects.
Though still young in her MMA career, Torres is a lifelong martial artist who strives to become a wiser and more complete fighter with each passing day. She is eager to continue her journey up the 115-pound ranks and hopes to return to the Invicta FC cage at the promotion’s next event in January.
At age five, Torres (1-0-0 pro; 8-0-0 MMA) took up karate and she studied the traditional martial art for the next 12 years. In her late teens, she began training in kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu followed soon after. Torres had her first kickboxing match when she was 19 and went on to compile an impressive 16-4 Muay Thai and kickboxing record. She quickly became known for her formidable standup skills, but her ground game wasn’t far behind. After receiving her BJJ blue belt, Torres felt that it was time to test herself in a new way and she set out to pursue a career in MMA.
Things were not easy at first. Potential opponents were aware of Torres’s extensive kickboxing record, which included more than a dozen fights at the time. As a result, securing opponents was a challenge. In late September 2011, Torres had her first fight and earned a second-round submission victory. She received a call to compete for the respected North American Allied Fight Series three weeks later and knocked out fellow prospect Rebecca Gruitza in just 28 seconds. After the two quick wins, Torres once again struggled to find opponents. Nobody wanted to fight her.
Early this year, everything suddenly changed and Torres had more fight offers coming in than she could accept. She took on as many fights as possible and posted decision victories in each of her next three fights. A May win over Jamie Moyle earned Torres her first mixed martial arts title, but it was Torres’s next fight that put her on the map as a top prospect to watch for.
On June 23rd, Torres was matched up against a skilled and undefeated opponent, Ashley Greenway, in a five-round title fight in North Carolina. As is customary in the state for amateur title fights, rounds would be four minutes apiece. Torres had previously been fighting three three-minute rounds and the 20-minute fight with Greenway would be a stern test for her cardio. Torres was ready for the challenge, and for five straight rounds she battered Greenway on the feet and on the ground en route to a lopsided Unanimous Decision victory. Torres’s confidence was growing.
Following the bout with Greenway, Torres was already looking ahead to a move to the professional ranks, but she had one more challenger standing in her way and wanted to gain as much experience as possible before turning pro. In July, Torres faced Amber Stautzenberger, who was making the cut down to 115 pounds after previously fighting as high as 130. Stautzenberger had a significant size advantage over the 5’1″ Torres, but it was Torres who prevailed via Unanimous Decision after three rounds.
Torres now had three titles and was the undisputed queen of the 115-pound amateur women’s division.
During the final few fights of her amateur career, Torres became aware of a new all-female promotion, Invicta Fighting Championships, which launched in April and held its second show just 12 days after Torres’s bout with Stautzenberger. Torres watched teammate Suzie Montero compete at Invicta FC 2 and hoped that she, too, could one day fight for the promotion. Her wish was granted just days later when she was offered a spot on the Invicta FC 3 card in October. Her opponent would be Kaiyana Rain, a fellow three-time amateur champion who had won four straight and was also making her pro debut.
Torres felt some added pressure leading into her Invicta FC debut due to her unbeaten record in MMA, but past defeats in kickboxing had taught her valuable lessons and she was ready for the next step.
“There was some pressure since I did go undefeated as an amateur, but I’m not totally undefeated because I did have a few losses in kickboxing and Muay Thai,” Torres says. “I’ve tasted defeat before and I’ve tasted how a win feels, and I like the taste of a win. I’ve learned from those defeats, so from here on out I’m choosing my fights wisely.
“Every fight that I get will be against a tougher opponent, but I know that I have the skill and the will to be able to beat them even if they are able to beat me,” she adds. “I feel like I’ve always lived the life of a martial artist. I’m constantly learning and excelling in different things.”
Torres had begun training alongside Brazilian veteran Ediene “India” Gomes at American Top Team in May and began to work more closely with experienced pro fighters Jessica Aguilar and Nina Ansaroff as she prepared for the bout with Rain. Aguilar and Ansaroff stressed the importance of mental strength when fighting. Torres had always tried to remain calm leading into fights, but she found it easier to do so with the veteran fighters guiding her along the way.
“I’ve always had a calm head going into fights, but with this fight in particular, one thing that Jessica had us do was some sort of breathing technique and meditation,” Torres recalls. “I had never done that before a fight and it really helped to clear my mind and body.
“When I got there, she told me to always keep my eyes on my opponent. Normally I do keep my eyes on my opponent, but the way she said it to me was like, ‘Don’t take your eyes off of her. When you’re in the ring, you own it, so show her that this is yours.’ Then Nina told me to own the ring and to always stay inside the Invicta star [on the mat], so little things like that and having the friendly voices in my corner really helped me.”
By the time the fight began, Torres was completely prepared. She knew what to expect and the fight played out just as she had trained. She was able to strike effectively on the feet and stuffed Rain’s takedown attempts en route to a Unanimous Decision victory in her long-awaited pro debut.
“It actually went exactly as I expected going in,” Torres says. “She did what I thought she would do. I thought she’d come in, throw her hands to test the waters of her standup with me, and then if that didn’t go well she would look for the takedown. And that’s definitely what happened. Whenever I would miss, she would grab on to me and try to go for the takedown, but thankfully I was able to stuff every takedown and not be taken down.
“In the final round when she tried the headlock throw over her shoulder, I was able to secure back position and finished the fight there at the end of the third round. She was tough and she was strong. After I felt her first punch, I was like, ‘Yup, we’re going to use my movement to get out of there.’ It’s not fun getting punched and once I felt her first punch, it was hard, but I was able to move off and do what I wanted to do.”
Torres was satisfied with her performance as a whole, but felt that there were areas of her game that she still needed to work on. Her footwork was good and she was able to stay a step ahead of Rain at all times, but head movement was something to improve upon in order to avoid more of her opponent’s punches. She credits her teammates at ATT for the many hours spent working on takedown defence, and was glad to have Aguilar and Ansaroff in her corner for the first time.
“The girls [at ATT] have really become my main training partners and they’re like coaches to me,” Torres says. “It’s a big school and it’s a bit hard to get noticed there sometimes, but I think that with my will to learn and to win, eventually they will partake more in me as a fighter. The female fighters have been my backbone, with Jessica Aguilar, Nina Ansaroff and [Ediene] ‘India’ Gomes being the three main ones.
“I am really glad that I get to train with them because they’re more experienced and they’ve already been there, so they just give me some awesome tips and mental notes as well. I was really happy to have Jessica and Nina in my corner and then ‘India’ there fighting, too.”
Torres is hoping to return to Invicta FC for her second fight with the promotion in January. She expects to face an even tougher opponent and hopes to take progressive steps up in competition throughout her career. Testing herself against opponents with an equal or greater skill level is Torres’s primary goal.
“For my next fight, I think they’re going to bring me someone with a challenge,” Torres says. “They’re not going to bring me someone I can walk over. It’ll be an evenly-matched fight just like my first one. I look forward to fighting somebody at the same level [as me] or higher because I want to advance myself. There are more opportunities for female fighters these days, especially with Invicta, and I just think it’s going to be one step at a time [to the top].
“I think there are a lot of opportunities [at 115] and there are a lot of girls coming from the amateurs who are going pro, but going into my next fight I would like to face someone who is at least 1-0 or 2-0 as a pro. I’m looking forward to the January Invicta card and I would definitely like to fight for them again. January is a good time and I would definitely be ready. There are one or two [opponents] that I have in mind. I would just like to continue to learn and to win.”
Torres is hoping that Invicta FC’s continued growth will lead to expansion outside of its current home base of Kansas City. She would like to one day compete for the promotion in front of her friends and family in her home state of Florida.
As her MMA career continues to blossom, Torres plans to remain active in other martial arts as well. She will be competing in the no-gi BJJ world championships in California in two weeks. It will be her first large-scale jiu-jitsu tournament and she aims to become a world champion. As well, when her MMA career permits, Torres would like to get back into kickboxing and Muay Thai. All together, she should have a busy year in 2013.
Torres also wants to be a positive role model for others and she is interested in working for a non-profit organisation that specialises in health and fitness. Working in sports modelling has also been a goal of hers in recent years. She continues to develop new contacts and relationships with female fighters and fans of the sport because she believes that it is important for the fight community to stick together.
“It’s always good to give back to the fans and to the fight community because they’re looking to follow your life and career and follow how things are going,” Torres says. “When I get fan messages, I always try to respond and I like to give out fan photos and autographs and stuff like that. After the Invicta fight, I was walking around the arena with pictures that I had already printed out and pre-signed, and I just filled in people’s names from there. Then I just sat and watched the event as a fan.
“You have to understand that, being a fighter, you’re also a fan and there were girls there that I was so excited to meet. I’ve looked up to them for the past four years. So since I’m a fan, I know how other fans are and it really does brighten someone’s day by taking the time out to acknowledge them and [the fact] that they have come and paid money to see you. I think it’s awesome that we have such a great fanbase and I hope it continues to grow. I think what Invicta’s doing, especially giving away the live stream for free, is great.”
Torres’s understanding of the importance of self-marketing has created a number of new opportunities and led to increased sponsor awareness during the first year of her career. Tussle Fight Gear, Babes of MMA, Awakening Female Fighters, Slept Fightwear, Apocalypse MMA, and Thick as Thieves Fight Co. have all partnered with Torres and helped her along the way. It’s a rather large suport group for a fighter with just one pro fight, but the companies know a bright prospect when they see one.
It took just ten months for Torres to conquer the amateur ranks, and while her climb to the top of the 115-pound pro division may take a little longer, she plans to one day hold the number one spot and the Invicta FC world championship.