On January 17, 2005, a television program aired on Spike TV that would turn out to be revolutionary for mixed martial arts. Up-and-coming fighters competed for their chance at winning a contract with the UFC. It was groundbreaking at the time. And when it all came to a conclusion on April 9, fans and fighters sat through something special. They witnessed a night of fights that helped to mold the future of the sport. Diego Sanchez fought Kenny Florian and Forrest Griffin squared off with Stephan Bonnar, and the winners were awarded contracts that changed their lives.

A new breed of fighter was born. These men were the ultimate fighters.

Torres (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Torres (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

History has a chance to be made once again when season 20 of the reality series airs later this year. For the very first time, the winner of the series will be awarded a UFC title.

Tecia Torres is one of the strawweights who has been given the chance to make history.

“It’s groundbreaking, really. We’re setting the standard for what people will see and then expect from female fighters,” Torres admitted to The MMA Corner. “They’ve done a season where it was half female fighters. It’s going to be a different dynamic. The 115-pound division is also really exciting. We’re faster than 135-pound fighters, we’re quicker. And the level of talent is amazing. Every fighter really brings something special to the show. I’m very honored to be among these great fighters.”

Before the announcement of the upcoming The Ultimate Fighter series, the UFC had only invested in the bantamweight division for female mixed martial artists. However, with increasing interest in the ladies, the promotion announced the addition of a new division and the acquisition of a group of top strawweights from all-female organization Invicta Fighting Championships.

“In the past, there were rumors about the UFC bringing in the 115-pound division. Then there were rumors about it not happening,” she said. “I thought maybe one day it would come about, but I didn’t think there would be a full season at my weight class. It’s really cool that they put my division on this platform. This weight class is very, very sound.”

It took just one phone call for a dream to come true for Torres, and it’s a moment that will surely stay with her for the rest of her life.

“It was amazing,” Torres exclaimed. “[UFC President] Dana [White] called me about four days after my last fight and he let me know that the next season of The Ultimate Fighter would be with the 115-pound weight class and it would be for a title. It was my dream from 20 years ago, when I started martial arts when I was five, coming true.”

A big part of a fighter’s identity comes from where they train. Torres fights out of the very successful American Top Team, which has tasted more success than ever as of late.

“I’m beyond proud to be a part of American Top Team,” she said. “It’s the best thing that I could’ve done for my career. Before, I was training at a couple gyms. I didn’t have one set gym that had everything I needed. I have amazing trainers here. My training partners are amazing. It’s a world-class gym with world-class fighters. It’s an honor.”

Torres (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Torres (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

The Ultimate Fighter 20 is likely to be the UFC’s most popular season of its reality television series yet. As the first season to feature a female-only cast, it’s bound to garner interest from fans who have possibly turned their back on the series over the course of its almost 10-year run. With the increased viewership, the competitors on this season are going to face dramatic changes in their lives.

“[Laughs] I’m getting a little bit used to it now, with all the different interviews and photo shoots, those kinds of things. It’s been very cool,” Torres admitted. “I try to interact with my fans as much as possible, but it’s hard. Sometimes I need to relax, sit down. But when you’re in the limelight, you know what comes with it. I’m embracing it [and] everything that comes with it. I’m doing this because I love it. To have people around you to support you is amazing.

“The more fans, the better. Who doesn’t want to be well-known and leave a legacy behind them? I know I want to become a role model for the girls of the next generation. I want to be on top and show people that you can get to the top by doing the right things and going about it in the right way.”

The opportunity of a lifetime has presented itself for the competitors in the strawweight division. It’s a chance for them to showcase the talent in the deep division and to be a part of a historic season of The Ultimate Fighter, where the winner will walk away as a UFC champion.

“Going in there, win or lose, whatever happens, all of the girls are very talented and have very bright futures in the UFC,” she admitted. “Good things—everything from sponsorships to opportunities with the media and outside of MMA—are going to come out of this for everyone.

“I’m feeling pretty confident going into it, you know? I feel like the cast is very talented, but so am I. Everyone has an opportunity to win. It’s a fight, so anything can happen. But I’ve definitely got the skills to come out as a champion. It’s more motivating. A title is the goal for every fighter. We all want it. But whoever wants it the most will end up winning that belt.”

With a renewed energy about this season, there will be new fans and old watching closely as the usual drama and entertaining fights unfold. Only this time, it’s not about finding potential fighters who can be added to the UFC roster. This season is much more important. It’s about finding a champion. It’s about building a division. And, in Torres’ case, it’s about showing everyone that she is the best strawweight fighter in the world.

Tecia would like to thank Fresh Meal Plan and her coaches, family, friends, fans and also her American Top Team teammates. Follow Torres on Twitter: @TeciaTorres

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.