Accident puts Torres' plans on hold, for now

April 28, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

Johnny Torres never knew a simple trip to watch the Baja 250 could end in a life-threatening accident.

Torres, a former world-class wrestler and now an ultimate fighter, recently took a trip with a couple friends to San Felipe to watch the Baja 250 race in mid-March. While there he was injured when one of the trucks careened off the course, flipped and landed on top of him.

"It came out of nowhere," he said. "People started yelling and then I see this off-road truck coming at me end over end. My friends ran out of the way and I tried to follow them, but I tripped on a rock. I saw it coming and said that was it."

"My whole life went through my head. I didn't breathe for a good minute. I thought I was going to die. It was something I've never experienced before and I don't want to experience it again."


When the dust had settled Torres had to be airlifted from San Felipe to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. He had suffered a contusion to his liver, bruised lung and bruised ribs, a fractured spine and a ruptured disk.

What made the injuries even more painful were they cost Torres a shot at the lightweight ultimate fighting championship. He had been training for a fight with Antonio McKee on April 7 when the injury occurred.

"It messed up everything I'd been working for," he said. "That made this especially hard. I was getting to the place I wanted to be."

"I went from being a world-class wrestler to being a world-class bed rester."

Torres had only competed in one ultimate fight, but he had scored a win. After training with the legendary Ken Shamrock and John Loeber he had been set to take on champion McKee as well as compete in one of ultimate fighting's top events, the King of the Cage, in June.

Now he is faced with four months of rest and recuperation, a layoff he certainly was not seeking.

"They said I should be all right in four months," he said. "My internal organs should be back to normal in a month and half. They said it was possible to go back to extreme fighting."

A return to the cage is the one thing on which Torres is focused.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be able to come back," he said. "The doctors said it was real surprising how fast I was recovering."

Torres has his sights set on a return in September but he knows to make that possible he has his work cut out for him.

I'm gonna train so hard it's not going to be funny," he said. "I just have to go back to the same routine, just do it twice as hard, but with a little caution."

"I'm gonna set my goals, work harder than I've ever worked before and start training like a madman."

One thing that won't come back easily for Torres will be his conditioning. He is now able to do calisthenics and will start training as soon as possible. However, the incredible stamina he built as a wrestler and in training for his fight will take time to come back.

"I've always prided myself on conditioning," he said. "I can go 20 to 30 minutes and it feels like I've only gone one minute. It's going to take time. I'm going to have to ease back into it. But I'll get back to that level."

While the accident was certainly nothing anyone could ever want to happen to them, Torres thinks it has helped him put things in perspective.

"It showed me to appreciate life," he said. "You just have to live one day at a time and don't take anything for granted. It's all about the little things. There is a lot of adversity (in life) and sometimes you work through it and sometimes you can't."

One gets the feeling if any person can work through this adversity, it is Johnny Torres.

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