Frog legs: MMAmania.com XFO 34 interview exclusive with Jeff Curran

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Jeff Curran's move to Strikeforce earlier this fall came off the heels of a release from the WEC after a disappointing career with the Zuffa-owned promotion.

After a successful debut victory over Stephen Ledbetter at WEC 29, Curran dropped four straight losses to the likes of Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, and Takeya Mizugaki, dropping him out of the organization's graces.

Fortunately, Strikeforce was traveling to Chicago shortly after the release and they asked the Illinois-native to be on the card.

Curran debuted against Dustin Neace, and it took but one minute and 39 seconds for "Big Frog" to finish the fight on account of Neace's obliterated mid-section. This marked the end of the two year winless streak Curran had to bear.

Now, the "King of the Cage" veteran is set to battle Tomohiko Hori at XFO 34 in Lakemoor, Illinois, alongside his cousin, Pat Curran, who will also be a participant on the night's main card.

Hori is a training partner to Takeya Mizugaki, who defeated Curran in a thin split-decision at WEC 42, and Curran hopes this time will have a better ending than the first.

However, while this fight is a minor chance at redemption against a fighter very similar to Mizugaki, the rewards and repercussions of the bout are exponential.

Curran is looking towards a move back to the blue octagon and a shot at WEC glory. The first stint in the promotion fried the "Big Frog", and he looks for a shot at redemption.

With his victory over Neace last month, defeating Hori this weekend could be Curran's ticket back to the WEC. If it is not, the 32-year-old hopes he will get the call back soon to win the WEC bantamweight title he sincerely desires.

Take a look.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): I just want to start off by talking about this upcoming weekend. You have your fight at XFO 34 against Tomohiko Hori. Can you give me your thoughts on your upcoming opponent?

Jeff Curran: Well, he's exactly what I want. He's somebody that has a good record at 135 (pounds) and he's got a lot of experience. He's an international-known fighter from fighting over in Japan. He's very similar to Mizugaki and he's Mizugaki's training partner. I'm looking for the stylistic similarities to Mizugaki and hoping to keep the fight standing and let loose a little bit.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): How has your preparation for this fight compared to your preparation for other recent fights?

Jeff Curran: Everything's the same. I train hard all the time. I train in everything. I did emphasize a little bit more, you know, throwing more kicks and knees this fight than most just because I think I slack off a little bit when it comes to Thai-boxing because I do so much boxing work. So I just focus a lot more on Thai-boxing. But other than that, everything is the same.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): What strengths do you believe you hold over Hori. Are they the same strengths you saw you had over Mizugaki?

Jeff Curran: Yeah, with Mizugaki we didn't get to stand up very much. I was trying to take him down, then he'd take me down. I thought we both were gonna make for a really good stand up fight, but it went the other way. I definitely know I have the advantage over him on the ground, just like I did with Mizugaki. So I know that's going to be very similar. I just hope to end up on top this time instead of on the bottom. And I definitely don't plan on trying to take the fight to the ground early on in the fight.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): Also fighting on the card is your cousin. What's it like to fight on the same card as a family member?

Jeff Curran: I think it's awesome. You know, he's just a young kid. 22 years old. He's already pretty big on the scene. He's got a 9-2 or 10-2 record, and he's only lost by decision. He's got potential. He's going to be something big, and having him get the chance to fight on the same card as me right now is really cool. There's a good chance you'll see us both on another show again in the future. You know, bigger shows.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com):  What role do you play in his career? How are you his role model in any way?

Jeff Curran: I'm the one who convinced him to move up here from Florida and start training. By the time he was 18, 19 years old he lived here. I've taught him all his jiu-jitsu, and I've coached him in every fight. You know, he uses the same boxing coach, the same striking coach. He trains in all my classes. Pretty much everything. I've coached every fight. I've ran his career basically, since the beginning.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): Under one month ago you defeated Dustin Neace at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Rogers" and it was over pretty quickly. How rewarding was it to win in your Strikeforce debut?

Jeff Curran: It's been so many long fights the past few years in my career, so many grinders. I got more decision fights than I ever wanted to just because of the level of competition I was fighting. To get in there and out of there in the first round, let alone the first two minutes, is really a nice feeling. And coming out without injuries and finishing him off. I landed some really good knees to his liver and I just put him down.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): Well that was your first win since 2007. What kind of pressure was taken off you when you exited the cage with the win?

Jeff Curran: Well, I actually felt the relief of that pressure, believe it or not, after the Mizugaki fight. Even though I got the loss, I felt I won that fight. I was still concerned about the win-loss ratio on my record. I didn't want to have another loss, obviously, going into Strikeforce and losing momentum for this fight coming up. But it definitely took the pressure off me. I just went out there and knew that I belonged and knew that it was gonna be my night. Try to change (to) that kind of mindset. I had that change in mindset when I fought Mizugaki, as soon as the fight was over and they gave the decision to him.   I knew I won the fight, and whatever the record says it says, but...

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): You're one of the top-notch fighters in the lighter weight classes, but your career in the WEC ended with four consecutive losses, including the controversial Mizugaki split-decision. How tough were those four fights for you, when you lost to Benavidez, Brown, Faber, and Mizugaki?

Jeff Curran: They were an emotional few years. I mean, it was an emotional two years where I couldn't tell if I was coming or going. I didn't know what my next move was. I was trying to stay confident and remain focused through a time in my life where I had nothing really pointing to success. I just kept falling short one way or another. Even though they were close decisions and good fights and I was in every fight, I still lost and I still knew where my reputation was headed if I didn't do something about it. Now with a win in Strikeforce and hopefully a win in XFO, I've got two wins against two tough guys in two organizations, I should be able to be looked at again by the WEC, and have my chance of getting back into that mix, and hopefully reestablish myself as a contender in 2010.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): You have a win over Neace. If you defeat Hori, that would be two in a row. At that point will you be fighting in Strikeforce again, and do you know who an opponent might be?

Jeff Curran: I really don't know. There have been no talks. They really don't have any real desire to do my weight class. I think if they came back to Chicago, they would probably put me on one of the main card fights and get me a fig¨ht, but if not, then, you know, just let the contract run out... I'll just sit back and do what I'm told in that department.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): You've obviously had a long career, you've broken that four fight losing streak, and you're looking to move forward now. What goals have you reestablished? What goals have you set for yourself now?

Jeff Curran: My goal is the world champ. My goal is to fight the best guy at the time in the WEC at 135 and get the chance to win the gold around my waist. That's really my ultimate goal. To be the world champion, and I know it's a title, and I know that there's other top guys out there that might not get that shot... I'm hoping to get that chance in the near future before I get too old.

Nate Lawson (MMAmania.com): Speaking of the WEC bantamweight division, obviously Miguel Torres was stunned by Brian Bowles. What were your thoughts on that fight and what are your thoughts on the division as a whole now?

Jeff Curran: The division is up for grabs. Dominik Cruz is definitely somebody he's gotta be careful of. He's gonna be work for Bowles all the way across the floor when you've got Cruz vs. Bowles. The division's awesome. Everybody in it's got something to offer, and they're all dangerous in their own way. Some more than others, but the division's exciting. 

Jeff would like to thank sponsor Cagethreadz.com. He also asks to stay tuned to XFOmma.com for ticket information, and Suckerpunchtnt.com for videos regarding Saturday's event and his fight.

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