During that time, Torres defended his belt successfully three times, and shot to the top of the sport, regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in all of MMA.
All the while there was a kid growing up in Modesto, Calif., who was watching Torres run roughshod over the competition at 135 pounds in the WEC with one thought permeating throughout his mind.
“I can beat him.”
Even in 2008 when Torres was sitting on top of the world and Michael McDonald was still growing up in the regional fight circuit, McDonald had it in his head that he could topple the once mighty king and take him off his throne. Now at UFC 145, he’ll get his chance.
“I’ve been wanting to fight Miguel for a long time. Ever since I saw him fight Manny Tapia, I’ve wanted to fight them both, and so I was like, it’s time,” McDonald told MMAWeekly Radio. “I’ve had a couple of times where it’s been like that. When I fought Manny Tapia, I saw him on TV and I wanted to fight him and I finally got the chance, and it was time to do that. When it was time for my rematch with Cole (Escovedo), I was like, it’s time. When I fought Chris Cariaso, I wanted to fight him for a long time, I just felt like, okay it’s time. I just feel like it’s the perfect storm.”
The reason that McDonald has wanted the fight so badly stems from nothing more than confidence in his own abilities, and knowing in his head that Torres can be defeated.
“I think I can beat him,” said McDonald. “People say that he’s great. There was a time when he was No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world, and even before that I thought I could beat him. I think I’m better than he is. That’s as simple as it gets for me; that’s where it started.”
Torres’ reign at the top of the bantamweight division came to an end in 2009, and he hasn’t quite climbed back into title contention since that time. There was a certain mystique around Torres at the time that he was champion, however, and it was at that moment that McDonald knew he could get the best of him should they ever fight.
“I think he is a great fighter and he’s gotten there on his skills, but I think no man is unbeatable,” said McDonald. “Anderson Silva’s an absolutely amazing fighter, but he’s not unbeatable. When the media gives the image of someone being unbeatable, when they put someone on a pedestal like that, it affects the opponents. It affects people’s image of a fighter when the public is all crazy about somebody.”
Recently, Torres has gone away from his more “reckless abandon” style in favor of a more controlled chaos after hooking up with famed coach Firas Zahabi and his team at Tristar in Montreal. The changes have resulted in Torres winning three out of his last four fights, with the one loss coming by way of a controversial decision to current flyweight competitor Demetrious Johnson.
McDonald isn’t sure that he’s seen that much of a change in Torres’ game, however. He sees pretty much the same fighter still deep down inside fighting to get out.
“I think that’s what everyone thinks, but honestly I think I see the same Miguel Torres that I’ve always seen. I’ve always though that, I’m not trying to bad mouth him, but I always thought that he was a little bit overrated,” McDonald said.
“I’m not saying that he’s a bad fighter in any way. I think he’s a really good fighter, but I don’t think that he is the best in the world, even when he was considered that. I’ve always just thought I could beat the guy.”
Now McDonald will get the chance to prove what he’s always known in his head. That he’s better than Miguel Torres.