by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At this past weekend’s XFO show in Chicago, Illinois, MMA veteran and XFO co-promoter Jeff Curran continued to rebound after a disappointing loss at PRIDE: Bushido 12 earlier this year, but not without some controversy.
Facing undefeated youngster Raphael Assuncao [brother of UFC fighter Cleuder "Junior Assuncao] in a lightweight main event, Curran managed to pull off a win via majority decision, much to the dismay of some of the onlookers.
And while on the surface things might not have been totally pleasing to everyone in attendance, according to Jeff there was much more going on than met the eye when he discussed his victory with MMAWeekly less than 48 hours afterwards.
MMAWeekly: First off Jeff, I know there’s some displeasure going around regarding your match this weekend against Raphael Assuncao in the XFO show on Saturday. Tell us what happened in the fight.
Jeff Curran: It didn’t go as good as I wanted it to. The first round of the fight was fine. I was a little distracted by the kick to the groin, it was a pretty hard kick, but I recovered off of that. It wasn’t a big setback or anything but it put a little frustration into me because it was one of the hardest groin shots I’d ever taken. Aside from that I came out happy, came out with that round in my favor.
Shortly into the second round I was laying back…and in the Illinois rules for all the XFO and Extreme Challenge shows we’ve done there’s no kicking [at all] once there’s a downed fighter just because of an injury that took place in the past Monte took the rule out…the ref was standing there waiting to see if I was going to stand up or he [Rafael] was going to come down and Rafael just out of instinct – not of being dirty or anything – threw a really hard leg kick and caught me on the outside of my calf. I was in major pain and was at the point where I was going to stop fighting because I couldn’t stand up really good. Now come to find that it’s actually broken. I have a break in the tibia, or whatever the small bone is called on the front side of my left leg. Now I was in major pain and pretty frustrated, but I think I did enough to squeeze by the round.
The third round I definitely got…I wouldn’t say “dominated,” but it’s definitely the round I took some punches. So the fight overall was one of the most injury prone fights I’ve had. My right hand is fractured because I was landing some pretty hard shots. I took a kick to the leg and now that’s fractured, there’s nothing I can do but wait on that to heal a bit.
The judges called it a majority decision for me. Two judges had me winning the first two rounds and losing the third. And then with the point deduction – he got deducted a point in the third round I believe for not responding [to warnings] for holding the cage, he was holding onto the cage when I was going for a foot lock and trying to turn him to the ground and then he was holding onto the cage when he was on top of me, so finally the ref had enough and deducted a point – it was like his third or fourth foul of the match. So after the fight the third judge judged the first two rounds a draw and the third round a loss for me and the point deduction balanced it out, so he had it a complete draw.
So the fight ended and I was pretty upset with the night at that point and got really emotional about everything. I definitely hated winning a fight like that on my home ground because it looks really bad and that’s what bothered me because I thought I did enough to squeak by considering the illegal blows, but I don’t know…it’s over and done with.
MMAWeekly: You mentioned being pretty emotional after the fight, do you think all the emotion surrounding the fight might have played into people’s unhappiness about the decision?
Jeff Curran: Yeah and it was a real heated fight. Whenever you come into somebody’s town and you’re the outsider of course it’s a real heated moment. Everyone thinks the whole crowd was on my side, but that’s not the case. I’ve got multiple schools that I compete with in the area that fight on my card regularly. I mean half the crowd there was booing me from the start, from the time my name was mentioned, because they’re not Jeff Curran fans; they’re fans this team or that team and are rival schools.
So the crowd was really into the fight, it was fast-paced, there was a lot going on, we were both taking a lot of shots and when it ended it was just kind of turned into [a situation] that anybody that had any doubt in their mind thought I lost got my ass kicked because I took a lot of punches or something in the third round, but they don’t understand what’s happening. I fought two rounds on a broken leg, I took a really hard shot to the groin – I mean Raphael’s foot was probably hurting just as bad as my groin because he was limping around afterwards – he told me he was sorry and that it was unintentional, but in the heat of the exchange in the second round the bell rang and he stuck a nice good knee straight into my face.
He just got me really amp’d up and that’s the one that put a little cut on my nose and blood started coming and I just got really like…I felt like the whole fight was against me and I was destined to lose it one way or the other because what was happening. Then it went in my favor and I was happy for that, but for people that didn’t see the fight and didn’t understand the rules and how fouls work don’t understand how bad an illegal shot effects someone’s performance. It just happens, he wasn’t intentional about it, but it was happening three or four times and finally the ref said enough is enough and he took away a point. Usually three fouls and you’re disqualified is what I was aware of, but we didn’t want that either, he wasn’t trying to catch me, it was just a heated fight and instincts take over.
MMAWeekly: By all accounts the show turned out to be a success. Being a co-promoter how do you feel about the overall show?
Jeff Curran: Yeah, I think the only concern I had about the entire show was that there were too many fights. We set a big amateur undercard of six fights because we usually lose half of them or somebody always pulls out last minute, so we wanted to make sure that our first show at a brand new bigger arena was going to be something that was impressive to the crowd.
I think we definitely delivered that, but the only problem being that probably half the fans that were probably newer fans were expecting to get out the arena at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, but the fights didn’t end until about 12:30 or 1:00 AM. That’s the one thing that I’d take back, is that I’d like to provide a little more balanced timeframe.
MMAWeekly: Still you have to be happy with the fact that there was a lot of action in the fights and almost all had finishes.
Jeff Curran: Oh totally happy…I didn’t get to enjoy most of it, I was in locker room the whole time [laughs]. From what I heard from people on my team coming back and forth [to the locker room] telling me how the night was going, it was definitely something I was happy with. We did about 4,000 people and that’s the biggest show that’s ever been in the Chicago-land area, probably in Illinois, at least in this side of Illinois as it is. So it was a great step for us in the right direction to hopefully getting bigger sponsors and support so we can keep growing and offer the fighters better pay and stuff.
MMAWeekly: With the success of this show, what’s next for the XFO?
Jeff Curran: We do have our smaller show planned for December that we’ve had booked all year long at our normal 1000 seat venue. It’s just a smaller show and we’ll continue to do those XFO shows as well just as a feeder to the big show. It will be similar to the UFC Fight Night shows at The Joint [in the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas], those only hold a handful of people, nowhere near what a Mandalay Bay can hold, but they just use them to build up the bigger shows off of them, so that’s what I’m kind of hoping to do with ours.
MMAWeekly: And for you, with the injuries you sustained against Raphael, when can we expect to see you return to action?
Jeff Curran: I think I’m scheduled to fight in King of the Cage in January, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible or not just because of the severity of the crack in my leg. I really hope that in a month’s time I’m back in the gym. I’ve got PRIDE: Bushido as well that’s going to be calling on me to start fulfilling my next two fights, so I’ve got to make sure that I’m solid, strong and healthy. So hopefully within the next few months I will be right back in the mix, I just need a month to heal.
MMAWeekly: I know you were pretty disappointed with your performance at the last Bushido. Given time to get healthy what can we expect to see from you there next time?
Jeff Curran: The next time in PRIDE I’m hoping to be bigger and heavier. Me and Raphael fought at 155, so it was both of us moving up and we’re both pretty solid 145ers, so both of us moving up to 155 was just a little bit bigger than what we’re both used to. I’m hoping by the next time I get to PRIDE I’ll be bigger, stronger and I’m definitely going to be focusing on my Thai boxing, conditioning, being able to deal with kicking better and takedown defense…so as a whole definitely improving hopefully.
MMAWeekly: Thanks for taking the time for us Jeff, we appreciate it as always. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Jeff Curran: Just keep an eye on me and thanks to my fans and a special thanks to Rafael, his brother and his team for taking the fight and coming out and enduring fighting on someone else’s soil and everything that comes with it. He’s a tough guy and it was a tough fight, I’ve got the win on my record and I’m happy with it, but he’s still an undefeated guy in my eyes…he’s a warrior and special thanks to him.
MMAWeekly: Sounds like you’d be up for a rematch?
Jeff Curran: Yeah, maybe in the UFC, PRIDE or something for sure.