Daniel Straus had gone through quite a bit in his personal and professional life this past year leading up to his featherweight title fight at Bellator 106. So it came as no surprise that prior to winning the title, Pat Curran was the heavy favorite to successfully defend the 145-pound strap for a third-straight time at his expense.
Straus was a guest on Darce Side Radio recently and explained that he "definitely had different plans."
"Everyone just saw it one way, him walking in, beating me up and going home the champ," he said. "I just didn't see it that way. I knew I would beat Pat."
The American Top Team (ATT) fighter had not fought since defeating Alvin Robinson at Bellator 78, over a year ago; he knew fighting for a title after that much time had passed was not going to be easy.
"I knew it was going to rough coming off a year-long layoff," Straus said. "To try to get back in there and do a five-round fight, it's going to weigh on you."
During his hiatus he suffered a hand injury that forced him out of the originally scheduled Bellator 95 matchup against Curran in April, and he was arrested in March, on charges that included driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana and MDMA. Straus also left Team Vision in Ohio, and moved to Florida to join ATT, a move he said helped his MMA career "drastically."
After his arrest, stories on numerous MMA websites continued to spread the bad news. Straus admitted he was "really bothered" because he didn't get to tell his side of the story.
"Doing a sport like this they put up stories for the masses," Straus said. "To me I've always felt like if you are going to get to know me or if you want to know something about me, ask me. Don't just go off of what the next man says. No one ever asked me that day ‘what happened? Why did you get arrested? Or why were you in the f***ing car with drugs?'
"If they would've asked me they would know, I didn't know there was a guy that had drugs in my car," he continued. "I didn't have drugs on me. I was just driving my car. So it bugged me because you feed stuff to people and some people just eat it up. It changes how people view you or view a company, or whatever the case may be and they run with it."
Straus admitted "it was hard" but Bjorn Rebney and Bellator "never shied away" from him during that time, and he had support from his family, friends and teammates to help him get through it.
"They have allowed me to work through my problems and stay on the track that I always wanted to be on, which was becoming a world champion," he said.
That being said, he is well aware of his "bad decision" of not knowing who was in his car the night of his arrest. He has accepted the consequences and learned a lot from them. He was adamant in saying he doesn't just frequent with ne'er do wells.
"I don't just walk around with bad people all day," Straus explains. "The company I keep is the reason I'm here: A world champion right now. You make certain mistakes and you have to be able to handle those mistakes and change them and that's what I did."
Over the course of the five-round title fight at Bellator 106, Straus implemented his game plan perfectly. He was first to attack against Curran -- who is known for being a counter-puncher -- with strikes and a high volume of kicks. He set up his takedowns and level changes off that consistently throughout the contest to earn a unanimous decision victory.
"I wanted to stay in and out on him. Touch him up a little bit and get his legs weak, so I tried to do a lot of kicking," Straus says, before revealing another hurdle he had to clear on fight night.
"Oddly enough, which was funny because I just watched the fight for the first time last night with a few friends. Before the fight, a couple of weeks ago I broke my left foot and we are watching the fight and I'm just winging the thing that it doesn't even matter. It was funny to watch. Good game plan and executed very well."
The new Bellator featherweight champion broke the top of his left foot, but managed to handle the injury for the entire 25 minutes and never avoided throwing kicks with it. He admits he is "limping around now," but "you just don't feel that stuff when you are in there," he said. "You got one goal set and one mindset and that's to win. Nothing hurts at the time."
Straus says hearing the words new featherweight champion "is a blessing." He was asked if he was concerned -- since Bellator has been knocked for not promoting their champions enough -- if that concerned him at all, now that he is the champ at 145.
"It's such a hard medium," Straus says. "You are actually the first guy to ask me this, and I'm actually going to give you a little insight into who I am. It's weird. I didn't get into this sport to be famous. I just really wanted to fight and be one of the best fighters. When you win, people are going to know you."
"I definitely want to be promoted," he says, getting back to the question. "I want people to be able to know who I am -- not because I want them to applaud me walking down the street -- because I want them to watch these fights. I want people to see that I'm a great fighter. I want people to understand that I'm a great fighter."
"Some people don't think they do a good job at it. That's okay to me. I'm always going to try to promote myself. I'm always going to get out there and try to do whatever I can and have people to see my fights."
Right now the new 145-pound champion has two title fights lined up: The season nine tournament final winner between Patricio Friere -- the only man to defeat him in his last 19 fights -- and the season eight tournament winner, Frodo Khasbulaev.
"A lot of people haven't mentioned him (Khasbulaev)," Straus explains. "A lot of people have kind of forgotten him, but I haven't. That guy has been there and he's tough. I'm looking forward to fighting him. I'm definitely going to be paying attention to the 45 weight class. Justin Wilcox is a big dude, and tough fighter and "Pitbull" is a great fighter as well.
"I want to stay busy. Whether I'm the champ, or a contender, or the guy at the bottom of the list, I just want to be fighting."