No fighter wants to be staring down the barrel of the proverbial gun known as the three-fight losing streak in mixed martial arts (MMA). It's often the kiss of death and subsequent release from a promotion.
It's where former Bellator Featherweight champion, Pat Curran, finds himself ahead of his Bellator 139 match up against Emmanuel Sanchez tonight (June 26, 2015) inside Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas.
Curran, 27, has lost his last two fights. The former a unanimous decision defeat by current champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, the latter a split-decision to Daniel Weichel. Prior to the two losses, Curran came from behind in a memorable rematch against Daniel Straus, reclaiming the promotion's 145-pound crown by rear-naked choke with one minute left in the fifth round, only to lose it to Freire in his very next fight.
The Illinois native has been to the top twice and he plans on getting off the snide and returning to prominence. Losing his title and suffering back-to-back defeats wasn't easy. And he explained to MMAmania.com how he dealt with everything since dropping his last fight to Weichel in February.
"It's been pretty rough to go through, but hopefully I can switch that up and change that and get back on track," said Curran, who now holds a 20-7 record. "You just have to accept it and move on with all losses in general. Beating yourself up over it will just make it worse. You just have to move on find out your mistakes and what the issue was, and hopefully go out to the next fight and it's fixed.
"He (Weichel) fought great that night and he definitely deserved the win, but I felt like I was holding back a little bit and I wasn't really being as aggressive as I need to be to win the fight and steal the round. It was a close fight and I kind of felt like I let it slip away a little bit as well."
The Bellator 145-pound division is highly competitive, with the title changing hands three times since Nov. 2013. Curran, former champion Straus and Freire are all evenly matched with each other. And on any given night any of the three could defeat the other. Weichel continues to make a name for himself and nearly finished Freire last week at Bellator 138, in a crazy back-and-forth battle, but ended up getting knocked out in the next round.
"Oh man, I thought it was over and it was close to the bell," said Straus. "He was saved by the bell. I felt it was a fair call, especially being that close and 'Pitbull' being the champ. I feel like John made the right call. Even in the second round, 'Pitbull' looked like he was out on his feet. He was still stumbling a little bit and wasn't fully recovered and Daniel just got a little too aggressive and overall it was a very entertaining fight and you can never let your guard down with 'Pitbull,' because he has a lot of power in his hands, especially that left hook."
Curran recognized that while he, Straus and Freire are considered the best the division has to offer, Weichel and others are rising through the ranks. And with Bellator "doing a good job of bringing in talent," the division will soon become even deeper.
"There's a few top guys right now, like you mentioned, but there's only a matter of time until a handful more that will come up and really start crushing people and make a name for themselves," he said.
The former two-time Featherweight champion would like to have rematches with both Weichel and Freire, and he is "set on getting another title shot in the future," but he is focused on what is in front of him and the task at hand at Bellator 139. "I know it's going to be a long road, but I'm ready to work," he said.
And that begins with Sanchez.
Curran knows the Roufusport-trained fighter from some past sparring sessions, saying their styles should make for an exciting encounter.
"He's a very talented fighter coming up through the ranks," Curran said. "He has an impressive record and comes from a great gym. I have experience training with him. I got a few rounds of sparring in with him. We know each other pretty well in that aspect and I fell that's going to make for an exciting fight. We both know what one another brings to the table. Theres not going to be a feeling out process. We are going to go right into it -- feel like -- and it's going to make for an exciting fight from the get-go."
Curran has never had to fight after losing two in a row, so he was asked how he can fight his fight and not press too much because he needs to get a win and get off his current losing streak.
"I don't want to go too far away from my style. I've never been too much of an aggressor, but I have to be smart with my shots and pick the right ones. It's going to come down to timing. When the timing is right I need to get after it.
"For example in the Weichel and 'Pitbull' fights I got a little too aggressive and a little too comfortable and I got clipped right on the button. My style I like to just take my time a little bit more. I'm a different fighter. I'm over cautious, but I'm looking to be the aggressor as well. You just have to tune in and see how the fight plays out."
This is the first time Curran has ever headed into a fight with the potential of losing for a third time in a row. It's new territory for him, and although he has never experienced this, he will use the two past losses to light a fire under himself in hopes it propels him back into the win column.
Yes, there is pressure, but as a fighter for almost a decade now, he knows that's par for the course.
"It's the first time I've ever had two losses in a row and a third, I really don't know what that would do to me," he said. "There is a lot of stress and extra pressure on that part. WIth this profession comes a lot of stress and extra pressure and lot of nerves, but I've been doing this for over eight years and you just have to block it out and just kind of ... It's strictly business.
"I use have to go in there and do what I have to do and get it done. I have to use those two losses as motivation because I really don't know how it's going to affect me, if I get a third loss. I'm motivated to get the win and I feel like the two losses are a motivator to get to the title. I need to win against Sanchez and go on to the next."