by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Jeff Curran is one of the busiest fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts. He has built his career from the ground up and is proud of where his hard work and dedication has taken him.
On Wednesday night, the “Big Frog” has the opportunity to reach what many consider the pinnacle of his career when he faces Urijah Faber for the World Extreme Cagefighting 145-pound divisional title.
“Fighting for a title is prestigious. I love the organization, I love working with all the staff at Zuffa. I’ve been curious about what all Faber’s hype is about…just because of that I feel the fight is getting the attention, in my heart, regardless if the fight were for a title or not. I’m really looking forward to going out there first hand and seeing what it’s all about. There’s a lot about him that impresses me and that’s my first immediate attraction to want to fight him.”
Curran returned to the WEC last August after a nearly five-year absence. The first opponent under his exclusive four-fight contract was Hardcore Gym’s Stephen Ledbetter. After earning a unanimous decision, the Illinois resident looks forward to contending for the featherweight belt on Dec. 12.
“Whoever wins the fight gets the other person’s prestige along with it. It’s a very good fight to promote and I think it’s the biggest fight in the weight class yet,” said Curran. “He’s either going to be what a real champion is made of and rise up, which I’m expecting, or he’s going crumble.”
He spent some time in Minnesota training with former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder Sean Sherk in preparation for his fight. In addition, he sharpened his skills with regular training partners such as Bart Palaszewski, Nate Mohr, Mike Stumpf, Russ Janca, Pat Curran and Dr. Doug Mango.
“My training has become harder and longer. I actually don’t train more hours. Take a normal day where I would put four or five hours of good solid work…I don’t double it or add three hours of training. Instead, I focus on the ‘live’ aspect of it whether it be sparring, grappling, or wrestling. Whatever I do ‘live’ has to be at a faster harder pace.”
“I think I study my own fights more than him. I look at his most recent fights and compare to his fights three years ago and he’s relatively the same fighter,” added the former Shooto America Champion.
“He’s a lot more confident and aware of what’s going on out there now. He continues to work his stand up and being the wrestler that he is, his jiu-jitsu comes natural probably. Like any fighter, he’s got kinks in his armor and I hopefully I can find them.”
Holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Pedro Sauer, Curran complimented his ground prowess by significantly improving his striking over the years under the boxing tutelage of Doug Mango.
“I definitely deep down know that I have better hands and don’t think kicks are going to be a factor. If he starts throwing kicks at me, I’ll be kicking right back. I’m kicking everyday and my kicks are coming up fast and hard. If we get into that kind of Thai boxing toe-to-toe match, it’s going to be a barn burner, but I definitely don’t think he’s going to have anything for me in the long run.”
Wednesday night’s 145-pound divisional championship fight is scheduled for five rounds. Neither fighter has fought past the third round in their respective careers.
“We’re both experienced enough to know that it’s our job to be in shape and go for five rounds. I can pace myself,” explained Curran. “Early on in the sport, I got to realize what it’s like to go through hell and I respected the training from then on. I changed my ways; I didn’t want to be that tired guy out there.”
Faber has been one of the most dominant champions in WEC history. The “California Kid” utilizes his wrestling prowess to overpower and overwhelm his opponents.
“He’s [Faber] not going to just tire on you; you can’t just tire him out. You got to hurt him. You got to hurt him with shots to the head, liver, body or whatever,” said Curran. “You can be the best guy in the world when it comes to conditioning and if you take a really good liver kick, down you go and that’s just the way it goes.
“I think that’s the only way to change the conditioning of someone like Faber and at the same time the way to change mine. He’s not going to just tire me out because he tries to elbow me every two, three seconds. I’m not under stress there. I’m comfortable; I’m going to survive it. He’s going to have to watch his pace a little bit.”
On Dec. 12, Curran has opportunity to solidify himself as one of the top featherweight fighters in the world and garner the recognition that has eluded him for many years … the recognition that even Faber doesn’t seem to be giving him.
“I watched about thirty seconds of the preview show and he’s already on there telling people that he’s insulted for having to get in the cage with me. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” expressed Curran. “He can go and fight guys that are 5-0 that nobody’s heard of and he’s not insulted by that? Now he gets a chance to step up and fight someone like me who, in the past three years since he’s been fighting, shares the exact same record against higher level guys. He better bring it on, I’m ready to meet him in the ring and let it fly.
“It’s time for Faber to put his money where his mouth is. Put up or shut up. Show the world who you are because I’m not somebody that’s going down like his last five guys.”