Pat Curran talks about Bellator, gameplanning and that KO

Maggie Hendricks

CRYSTAL LAKE, Illinois -- Pat Curran, Bellator's new featherweight tournament winner, was back at Curran Martial Arts for the first time since knocking out Marlon Sandro on Saturday night. The gym built by his cousin Jeff was now Pat's home, too, and the several congratulations he received over the course of our interview showed just how happy Curran Martial Arts was to have Pat on the roster.

Now, Curran credits the preparation he did with Curran Martial Arts as the reason that he has won two straight Bellator tournaments. The difference for him in the featherweight tournament, in which he submitted Luis Palomino, and won by decision over Ronnie Mann before knocking out Sandro, was film study and game planning.

Curran knew Sandro's weaknesses before Saturday night, and envisioned a knockout win.

"When he gets in exchanges, he starts going really wild. His chin is up in the air. I saw myself connecting with an overhand right, and knocking him out that way, but I also saw the head kick, too. That's exactly what happened. As he was bobbing and weaving, his hands were down and he ducked right into my kick. I saw that in the footage, but I give credit to my corners, too, because they gave me good advice," Curran said.

He knew from the moment the kick landed that the fight was going to be over soon. {YSP:MORE}

"I felt it right on my shin. He dropped, and I rushed over him in. I didn't want him getting back up, so that's why I rushed over with those quick little shots."

That gave Curran his second tournament win with Bellator. He won their lightweight tournament, only to drop a five-round decision to champion Eddie Alvarez. Curran says that losing to Alvarez helped him rattle off three straight wins after that.

"I lost the fight, but I walked away with a lot of knowledge. I saw that I needed to mix up my gameplan instead of focusing on just one goal. I mixed up my gameplan, started to throw more takedowns in, throwing more kicks, start showing off my ground skills."

He also dropped down to featherweight after the loss. Curran says that though the weight cut was the toughest part of the tournament, he is much more confident fighting at 145 lbs. than he was at 155 lbs.

"I didn't have much confidence going through the 155 tournament. Nobody thought I was going to win. I was a filler fight. I ended up winning the whole tournament. I went up against Eddie Alvarez, and he was still favored to win the whole thing. I trained my ass off for that fight, and it still was a confidence booster. I stood with one of the best lightweights in the world, one of the best strikers in the world, and he didn't knock me out, and I was able to land my shots as well. Now I'm dropping down to the weight class that I originally wanted to fight at, and I was a tournament favorite. I had a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence going into it."

Those wins have catapulted Curran into the top-10 among featherweights. MMA Weekly's latest rankings put him eighth in the world.

"It is really cool to see myself in the top-10 or top-5, but I look at all the fighters in the top 5 and I see myself beating them any day. I see myself belonging with the high quality guys."

But just who he'll fight next, and when that fight will happen is a question mark. Joe Warren is Bellator's featherweight champ, and winning the featherweight tournament means that Curran should have a shot at him. However, Patricio Freire won the last FW tourney, but hasn't been able to fight Warren yet because of an injury. Also, Warren is entered into Bellator's bantamweight tournament, so Curran will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, he has no problem taking time off as he has already fought four times in 2011.

"I'm looking forward to a little time off. I had the Alvarez fight, and then I went right into the featherweight tournament. I really didn't get much of a break. I want to take a little time off and improve on my skills, and do some grappling tournaments."

He'll also help his cousin Jeff and teammate Bart Palaszewski get ready for their bouts at UFC 137. Though he'll be in Las Vegas to support them in the UFC, Curran doesn't have any questions about which promotion is right for him.

"The UFC was always a goal, but Bellator has been so good to me/ I'm making good money, I love Bjorn (Rebney, the Bellator CEO). He's treating me really well. Everyone over there is treating me well, and I see myself staying with them as long as they're around. They're a great organization."

Thanks to Eric Coleman and Bellator for the photos.