Over the course of the past couple years, Pat Curran has gone from underdog to Bellator featherweight champion. And through each step of the process in working his way to the top, he has put in the hard work and made the right decisions.
That doesn't mean things are always easy.
This past January, Curran successfully defended his title against Patricio Freire in a fight that pushed him to his limit.
“He was an extremely tough opponent with a tough jaw and hard to finish,” said Curran of Freire. “It was a little closer than I’d like, but I’m happy to come away with a win and defend my title for the first time.
“Once I started getting my rhythm and timing down, I started finding openings more and finding a home for my jab. I was landing the cleaner shots on him and by the end of the fight his face was more swollen than mine.”
It was perhaps Freire looking the worse for wear that earned Curran a split-decision victory. Although it was a much more difficult fight than he anticipated, Curran is happy that it gave him a good sense of who he is coming into this year.
“I definitely wanted to make a statement and prove to myself that my boxing is definitely on par with an elite level. I definitely wanted to prove that and I think I did,” Curran told MMAWeekly.com.
“It felt great to get five rounds and find out where my cardio and endurance is and push myself to see where I can improve and better myself after that.”
Originally Curran was set to make his second title defense against Daniel Straus at Bellator 95 on April 4 in Atlantic City, NJ, live on Spike TV. Straus, however, suffered an injury, so Curran will face Shahbulat Shamhalaev instead.
“They’re definitely different fighters and I have to go in there with a completely different mindset and gameplan, but I feel like I’m an experienced, well-rounded fighter and little tweaks here and there will make the difference,” said Curran.
“Going into this fight, this is my fourth title fight with Bellator, and I’m very confident with my experience going into this fight. I’ve been through a couple five-round wars and I know what it’s like to fight 25 minutes and prepare for it and not wear myself out.”
Now that he’s risen to the top of Bellator, Curran knows he’s going to have to continue to work just as hard as he did before to stay where he’s at.
“I’ve been in everyone else’s shoes and I know what they’ve been through and what they’re going through and what they want,” he said. “Everybody wants what I have right now.
“I worked really hard to get where I’m at. I put a lot of hours in the gym and a lot of time into things and I’m definitely not going to let go of things easily. You’re going to have to pretty much kill me to take that away from me.”