5 fighters who starred in the WEC but struggled in the UFC
- The WEC produced plenty of UFC superstars, but plenty of its best fighters also struggled in the Octagon.
- Mike Brown and Miguel Torres both won gold in the WEC but found things hard in the UFC.
It’s hard to believe now, but it’s nearly a decade since the WEC – the UFC’s sister promotion dedicated to the lower weight classes – closed its doors and saw its roster brought into the UFC, introducing new talent to the Lightweight and Welterweight classes and adding the Featherweight and Bantamweight classes to the promotion for the first time.
Following the arrival of the WEC’s fighters, the likes of Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson went on to have massive success in the Octagon, winning numerous titles and putting on some of the best fights in the promotion’s history.
For a handful of other fighters though, their time in the WEC represented the peak of their careers – and they were never able to do quite as well in the UFC. Here are 5 fighters who were stars in the WEC, but struggled to replicate that form in the Octagon.
#1 Miguel Torres
The WEC’s third Bantamweight champion following the promotion’s buyout at the hands of Zuffa in 2006, Miguel Torres brought a huge reputation with him before he’d even debuted. He’d been fighting on the regional circuit for years, dating back to 2000 in MMA’s Wild West era, and had put together an insane 32-1 record, with many of his fights coming against far larger fighters.
Torres debuted in the WEC in 2007 with an easy submission win over Jeff Bedard, and then won the Bantamweight title in his second fight, choking out champion Chase Beebe with a guillotine variant in the opening round. At that stage, he looked unstoppable at 135lbs. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the legendary Carlson Gracie, not only did the Chicago native have a venomous ground game, but his striking was tremendous too, as he’d make full use of his lanky, 5’9” frame.
3 successful title defenses followed for Torres before he was stunningly unseated by Brian Bowles in August 2009; essentially, he was drawn into a brawl with a heavier hitter and found himself outgunned. Another shocking loss – this time to Joseph Benavidez – followed, but 6 months later the former champ appeared to have righted the ship with an easy win over Charlie Valencia.
Torres’ next fight was his UFC debut, as he comfortably outpointed Antonio Banuelos essentially by using his jab alone, but his second Octagon appearance didn’t go so well; despite dominating swathes of the fight, he came out on the wrong end of a decision against future Flyweight legend Demetrious Johnson.
A win over Nick Pace appeared to put him back on track again, but then disaster struck for him; he cracked an unsavoury joke about rape, and was subsequently released by the UFC. After an apology, Torres was brought back to the promotion – but suffered a bad knockout at the hands of Michael McDonald and was then released again. Since leaving the UFC, he’s gone 4-4 on the regional circuit, and hasn’t fought since 2016.
What went wrong? Essentially, it was all about timing for Torres. By the time he entered the UFC, he was essentially past his prime after fighting for a decade, and his chin – which was once considered one of the best in MMA – had been cracked. Had he not been released in 2012, the likelihood is that he would’ve ended up losing a string of fights anyway, and never would’ve reached the heights he did in the WEC.