After defeating Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 139 last June, Pat Curran (21-7) was gaining positive momentum and more importantly, snapping the first two-fight losing streak of his career.
But as he was preparing to face Justin Lawrence at Bellator 145, Curran, 28, suffered an injury to his knee that put him on the shelf the last few months.
"I was getting ready for my last fight and I was about six weeks out, I shot in on a double and took the corner to re-shoot and my MCL popped," Curran told MMAmania.com. "It was a grade III sprain, so I was out for a few months recovering. I took my time recovering. I didn’t rush the healing process and eased my way back into training and right now it’s back to 100 percent. It could’ve been worse. I was fortunate enough to not tear anything or have to get surgery for it."
Being sidelined after getting back into the win column was tough to take for the two-time Bellator featherweight champion, who faces Georgi Karakhanyan (24-5-1) at Bellator 155 tonight (Fri., May 20. 2016), but it gave him time to reflect on his life and career and also to make some significant changes, he says.
"It definitely sucked at the time just because any time you have an injury you don’t know how severe it is or how long it’s going to take to get back and train," said Curran. "It definitely wasn’t fun to go through. I believe that everything happens for a reason and having that injury I was able to take my time and think about things. I made some changes since that injury. I’m no longer training with my camp in Illinois. I found myself down in South Florida training with the Blackzilians in Boca Raton. It’s definitely bringing out a different fighter in me. I’m more motivated. I have more drive being here. They are pushing me to be the best fighter that I can be."
Curran is impressed with the lineup of great coaches like Henri Hooft, Neil Melanson, Greg Jones and Jorge Santiago that are a part of the Blackzilians team and also the amount of talented fighters among its roster. The Illinois native has been down in South Florida for the last month of his current fight camp and he sparred with the late Jordan Parsons before his tragic hit-and-run accident, and also with former Bellator lightweight champion, Michael Chandler.
"I’m trying it out right now, but I’m definitely leading toward moving down here full time," Curran revealed. "It was one of those things where it was last minute I wanted to try to do my camp with the Blackzilians. I wanted to come down, give it a try and talk about it more after the fight."
The former champ got to try his hand at a Blackzilian tradition: "Meat Night," which is a full-throttle sparring day that tends to get pretty violent, crazy and as close to a real fight as possible. He felt he needed to be pushed in preparation for his fight vs. Karakhanyan at Bellator 155 (results here).
"Meat night, that’s every Tuesday and Friday," he said. "My first week there… I’m fresh meat so, of course, you are going to have a good training session on those days. That’s what I need. I need those hard sessions. I need to be pushed to make sure I’m getting back into fight shape."
"They push it hard, but at the same time they don’t over train their athletes," Curran continued. "They have a couple of hard days out of the week. They also drill a lot to go over technique. I guess things are changing a lot the last couple of months. You don’t want to over train when you are going into a fight. If you over train you are exhausted and you don’t recover as quickly. They understand that."
Karakhanyan is a "good matchup," and "tough opponent," he says, complimenting the former World Series of Fighting featherweight champion. Curran says he's "in the right frame of mind" and sounds as confident as ever to get back in the Bellator cage after being out almost a full year since his last bout.
"I’m motivated," he said. "I’m ready to win against Georgi and get one step closer to being the champion. He’s going to push me. I want to see how I do with all the changes I’ve made in my life. I plan on going in there and becoming aggressive fighter, but you just never know until it actually happens. I know what I want to do. I know what I need to do, let’s see if I can perform it on fight night."
Since defeating Joe Warren for his first title at Bellator 60 in March of 2012, there has been a triumvirate of title holders in the featherweight division between Curran, current champion Daniel Straus and Patricio Freire. Each of the three have won and lost against the other two making any of their matchups a crap shoot as to who will walk out with the belt.
"You are absolutely right," Curran said. "It’s really who is the better fighter that night. We are so close to each other skill wise that it comes down to who has the better night."
And most likely you have to go through two of them in order to earn a title.
"It’s not an easy thing to go through, you have Straus and you have Pitbull, or it’s the other way around," he said. "They are both dangerous fighters."
Curran didn't put the cart before the horse, but he definitely thinks he's in line for a shot at what would be his third title with an impressive win over Karakhanyan. Of course, with Straus still nursing a broken hand from his title-winning bout against Freire at Bellator 145, Curran could be meeting up with "Pitbull" for a third time in a title-contender bout.
"I hope everything goes the way I want to against Georgi. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I need a dominant win against Georgi and I can go from there. Even with a decision win I’d be in line for a title shot or contender spot."