Meet Rory MacDonald’s Next Opponent—J.T. Torres

Fightland Blog

By Nick "The Tooth" Gullo

Photos by Nick "The Tooth" Gullo

One of the best MMA fighters in the world faces one of the best jiu jitsu players in the world, in a no-gi, submission-only, super-fight. That’s the stuff of legend, and the format has come to define Metamoris.

This November 22, at Metamoris V, Rory MacDonald, #2 UFC Welterweight contender and next in line for a shot at the belt, faces J.T. Torres, who, if you’re not a jiu jitsu geek, you may not have heard of, so here’s your proper intro:

J.T. Torres trains at the ATOS academy in San Diego, alongside Andre Galvao, Keenan Cornelius, and numerous other high-level black belts. J.T. won gold at the 2010 Pan Ams (black belt division), and gold at the 2013 World No-Gi championships. Before jiu jitsu, at just fourteen Torres earned a black belt in karate—which won’t help him against MacDonald, but it’s the reason he’s such a fan of MMA. A few days before this year’s World No-Gi tournament (last week), while training he attempted a foot sweep and (his words): ‘the edges of my toes caught my training partners ankle and just literally ripped my two toes apart.’

The injury forced his withdrawal from the tournament, but he’s already back in camp preparing. I’ve trained with J.T. on several occasions, as we’re both under the ATOS banner, so when I heard he was facing Rory, I gave him a call and badgered him with questions.

Fightland: What did you think when you got the offer to grapple Rory?
J.T. Torres: Rory is a great MMA fighter with huge potential to capture the UFC belt. When the offer came across the table to fight him, I was a little surprised, but at the same time super excited for the challenge.

Are you training any differently than you did for no-gi worlds or ADCC?
My Metamoris training is pretty much the same as those camps. There are few small differences though, for example, the whole camp is structured for me this time around, where before the camp was meant for up to thirty guys.

You earned a blackbelt in karate, and you're a black belt in BJJ, why didn't you pursue MMA?
While training karate, my dad and I started watching the UFC, and when he caught wind of jiu jitsu he pushed me to do it, because at the time I was a lazy kid. When I started grappling, because of my striking background I was interested in pursuing MMA, but I fell in love jiu jitsu to the point that I became obsessed with the art—the flow, the endless techniques. MMA took a back seat to jiu jitsu, but I still catch all the UFC fights.

Are you more motivated for a super fight, or a multi-day jiu jitsutournament?
There’s nothing better than a super fight, because unlike a tournament, where the half-filled arena is watching eight mats at once, during a super fight, the lights are dimmed, and all eyes are on you. That’s the best.

Why do you think Metamoris is important?
Because the event highlights the true essence of the art, which is attacking and winning by submission. Points, advantages, those are needed for tournaments, because with over a thousand competitors you can’t allow twenty minute matches that might end in a draw, but in the end, it’s all about forcing that tap.

What type of game do you think Rory is going to play?
You know, to be honest with you, I have no idea because I haven't seen much of his grappling. He’s such a tremendous striker that his fights rarely hit the ground—but I know he’s a black belt, so I'm going to sharpen my tools in every position.

You’ve rolled with the best jiu jitsu and UFC fighters, how do their games generally differ?
When an MMA fighter catches his opponent in a vulnerable position, he typically focuses on raining down punches, where a high-level BJJ guy is going to lock-in a submission. The minds are just trained differently—different rules of combat, different judging criteria, etc.

Why jiu jitsu over karate?
BJJ is more practicable for self defense purposes, and also training purposes. You train grappling at 100% speed with another person, and that gives a realistic feel to a fight. But in Karate you can't kick each other in the head six times a week. Karate, and a many other contact sports, just don’t offer the same realism.

You train with Andre Galvao, Keenan Cornelius, and the Mendes brothers, who have all competed at Metamoris—while watching their matches, were you hoping to one day compete at in the event?
Watching those guys compete in anything motivates me. I fought Victor Estima (to a draw) at Metamoris 2, but it was a very short notice fight for both of us. This time around I'm excited to have a camp to properly prepare.



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