Jeff Curran is a busy man.
When I met him at Curran Martial Arts in far northwest suburban Chicago, he was going through clothing at Cage Threadz, the well-stocked apparel store in the facility. He also had a radio interview, and talked through a sponsorship deal with a fighter on a card he is promoting. Pictures of his family decorate his office, and he has two laptops open at once, keeping track of his business ventures. Did I mention that he is fighting Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 42?
With all of this going on, where does fighting rank?
"It doesn't seem like it, but it's all about fighting for me. Knowing that I have a future after fighting is what gives me peace of mind to move forward with fighting," Curran said. "It's about fighting, myself, it's about my up-and-coming fighters getting a chance, it's about my every day students feeling confident that they train under someone who has the skills to back it up. It might not seem like it with everything going on, but fighting is my priority."
With an opponent like Mizugaki, fighting has to be important. The Japanese fighter made his debut at WEC 40 in a barnburner against WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres. Torres won the five-round battle, but Mizugaki turned heads here in the States with a tough performance. Curran is using the long Mizugaki bout as a way to dissect his strategy.
"Watching a guy fight for 25 minutes, you can see some pattern as to what they do. I want to make sure that I have it in my head, 'He might do this.'"
Curran is facing more than a difficult opponent. After three losses in a row -- to Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Joseph Benavidez -- he is facing a point in his career where one more loss may mean stepping back and taking stock.
"A loss is not going to make me quit fighting, but it's going to make sit back and evaluate at what level do I want to fight at. Do I want to fight at a lower level, make less money, and then one day take another shot at it? I'm hoping that's not the case. Or is it the fight where I can finish Mizugaki, forget about the last three losses, chalk it up as, 'Hey, I belong here, and I'm coming for you.' It's a little bit of pressure."
'One ingredient away'
Still, the losses weigh on Curran. The WEC 40 decision loss to Benavidez, who will also fight on the August 9 card, was Curran's first loss at bantamweight and in front of his home crowd. Faber's guillotine choke was the first time Curran had submitted.
"The loss to Urijah weighs on my mind, because that's the fight that put me in this downward spiral. It made me not care about who I fought next. It messed with my thinking. Whereas, if I would have beat Urijah and become the champion, you have a different momentum. When you come off of getting submitted for the first time, and you've got to dig out from that, it's not like losing a decision. You're second-guessing yourself. I went through some emotional stuff about it but I'm mentally stronger now."
Curran knows he can still hang with the best of the WEC, despite the losses.
"My sights are set on one overall goal, and I didn't sign with the WEC to be a contender, I didn't sign with the WEC to be the most experienced guy on the roster, I signed with the WEC to be the best fighter they've got. I know I'm just an ingredient or two away from being that. I just have to find what that is."