Pat Curran's road to Bellator champion was the perfect paradigm of the promotion's goal.
He went from unheralded competitor to one of the top ranked featherweights in the world, and it all happened because of his performances in the tournament format and his run to the title.
The Team Curran fighter competed against stiff competition and proved himself against the likes of Roger Huerta, Mike Ricci, Marlon Sandro, Joe Warren and most recently Patricio Freire in his first title defense in the first televised fight on Spike TV in Bellator history.
After opening up the eighth season of Bellator with a bang, Curran is back this Thursday night (April 4, 2013) at Bellator 95 to close out the season in his second title defense, this time against season seven featherweight tournament winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev.
Curran spoke to MMAmania.com about his hobbies outside the sport, his transition from underdog to one of the faces of Bellator and his upcoming title defense against Shamhalaev in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a very talented mixed martial artist, but something I've picked up on is it's not an obsession for you like for other fighters. It seems you're able to get out of the MMA bubble every once in a while and recharge everything. Can you talk about that?
Pat Curran: Yeah, you've got to turn the switch off sometimes and refresh, relax and step away for a little bit. For the most part, I'm constantly in the gym, constantly around the sport so a little break here and there helps me. MMA is still my life, though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You just started up a YouTube channel and the videos were pretty interesting. You were showcasing some snorkeling on vacation in Florida, some off road four-wheeling in Michigan and Indiana. Is that just something you love to do to take your mind off fighting?
Pat Curran: Yeah, those are hobbies I've always been interested in. I get bored doing the same thing over and over and over again and that's what happens when you're constantly training MMA. I have lots of other hobbies that I can step away for a weekend and just go enjoy and have some fun. If you're willing to compete in this sport and step into the cage against another man, you have to be some sort of adrenaline junkie. I love rock climbing, surfing, occasionally riding motorcycles, stuff like that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your path in Bellator has gone from being an underdog in your first four fights to now becoming the champion, one of the top ranked featherweights in the world and one of the main faces of the entire Bellator promotion. Can you talk about the transition you've made and where your confidence level is at now?
Pat Curran: From the beginning, going into Bellator I had no idea what to expect, what was going to happen. I never expected I would make it to where I am now especially in such a short period of time but that's the beauty of Bellator, that a fighter can accomplish something like that. I kept going from fight to fight, improving, going back to the gym, spending a lot of hours fixing my mistakes and improving myself and now I'm the featherweight world champion and it's been a hell of a ride. The way I look at it, this ride is just beginning. I'm just peaking in my career and I'm only 25 and I still have a long way to go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Shahbulat Shamhalaev is stepping in for Daniel Straus after the injury and it's only been six weeks for him since his last fight. Do you think that's more beneficial to you or to him?
Pat Curran: It could be a good thing and could be a bad thing. I'm jumping right back into the cage as well. It really depends on if a fighter is injured, where he's at, if he feels mentally 100 percent prepared. They obviously said they wanted to take the fight and they were happy to do it. They were ready for it, I'm ready for it. Jumping right back into a fight, usually you want a little more time to rest your body especially come off the other fights he had in the tournament but he did end them pretty quickly via knockout and he doesn't look like he took much damage in those fights so this could be a good decision for him to jump right back into it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've read a couple of your interviews where you mentioned you always wanted to have a quick turnaround, you feel you compete better when you can stay more active. You always had those long breaks due to injury or other reasons. How good does it feel to finally have that quick turnaround and get this featherweight division rolling?
Pat Curran: It feels great. It's definitely a big change. Not having an injury and taking that long time off has been amazing. I was able to slowly get right back into training. I did injure my foot in the Pitbull fight but it wasn't broken and the injury healed pretty quickly. I was very fortunate in that department and I was able to get right back into my training schedule.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your upcoming opponent Shahbulat Shamhalaev had some trouble making 146 pounds in his last fight, even having to shave his head. Do you think he could have some issues making 145 for the title against you?
Pat Curran: As a professional, if you had trouble making 146, I'd definitely make sure to come in a little more prepared for the next fight. I think he's gonna do that. This is a big opportunity and if he doesn't make weight, this no longer is a title defense and that's too huge of an opportunity to pass up. I think he'll be more prepared for this weight cut this time around.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned Shamhalaev finishing all his fights very quickly, but no one has really tested him in terms of conditioning. You've had two tough five round fights in Bellator already including your last fight against Pitbull. Do you think cardio is a huge question mark for him heading into this fight?
Pat Curran: Yeah. Every fight he's had has been quick. He hasn't even fought three rounds combined in his Bellator career whether alone five. It's really hard to judge where his cardio and stamina is from my perspective and also for him as well. Five rounds is a long time and you've got to find your rhythm and set a certain pace so you can last the whole 25 minutes. It's hard to say. He's a newer fighter. I haven't heard much about him or seen much about him. I've just seen his fights in Bellator and he's looked very impressive. I think he's got tremendous knockout power, striking ability and killer instincts.