by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
On Aug. 5, Jeff Curran returns to the WEC after nearly a five-year absence. Curran recently signed an exclusive 4-fight contract with the Zuffa-owned organization. “I’m pretty stoked. It’s been a long six weeks of training and dieting. Looking forward to a couple of days rest and then I look forward to fighting it up.”
Having fought in Pride, UFC, ZST, and the IFL, Curran is one of the most experienced featherweight fighters today. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has had almost 40 fights at just 29-years-old. Jeff is the owner of Curran Martial Arts Academy in Crystal Lake, Ill. and is also the owner/promoter of three smaller MMA organizations. The former Shooto America Champion has faced some very tough competition and remains as one of the busiest fighters in the business.
“[I have] an eighteen month contract for 4 fights. That’s not as active as I normally am. I usually get like 6-7 fights a year or so. I’m looking to slow down and take a little more time in between and just take higher profile fights,” said the Relson Gracie National Gold Medalist.
A natural 145-pounder, Curran spent most of his career fighting physically larger opponents. Now that the “Big Frog” has found a home in the WEC’s featherweight division, he can focus on future matches in his respective weight class. “When I started fighting ten years ago, I was fighting 170-pounders, 185-pounders. The whole reason of taking fights at 155 the last few years was better money opportunity and better exposure on bigger shows,” explained Jeff. “I’ve always felt like I’m giving up a little something. Now that the 145-pounders are starting to explode because of the WEC, I definitely don’t think I’m going to jump around. I’m going to hang tight here and see where it takes me.”
As one of the most dominant champions in the WEC’s history, Urijah Faber has a large target on his back. The level of competition in the lightweight division has increased with the recent acquisitions of Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver. Alongside many up-and-comers, Curran finds himself among the growing list of potential contenders for Faber’s belt.
“I think Faber is an awesome champ. Any organization couldn’t ask for anyone better. He’s got the whole package and he knows the game,” commented Curran. “The WEC can’t go wrong having him as the champion; they have so much to gain when they bring in other guys to fight him. The person who beats Faber now is going to be the man.”
“I’m confident in my own ability and match pretty well with him,” added the Illinois resident. “He’s kind of a ground-n-pound guy; his strongest point is to take guys down. My guard is one of the better guards in the business. I don’t get beat up from the back; I win most of my fights from my back when I’m there. I’m good at getting back to my feet. I’m good at sprawling and stopping takedowns even more than before.”
Sunday night, Jeff Curran will take his first step towards the WEC 145-pound crown when he faces Hardcore Gym’s Stephen Ledbetter.
“I really don’t know too much about him. I saw his most recent fight against Steve Kinnison. Fighters can change their styles from fight to fight. I don’t look past him at all; I take him just as serious as the next guy,” stated Jeff. “Regardless of who I’m fighting, my training doesn’t change. I train hard; I work my standup, I work my ground, I work my conditioning. I’m just going to go out there and let the cards fall where they may.”
“I am so happy,” elated Curran. “For years it’s been ‘jump from show to show’ and all I really wanted to do is have a home; a place where I can work my tail off in order to become a world champ. It makes me feel that all the 145’ers in the world are going to get a main stage to show their stuff. All in all, this just makes every fighter in my weight class that much better and motivated to win. The quality is going through the roof from here on out and I am happy as hell to be a part of it.”