Bumps and bruises accumulate, injuries happen, and that’s just part of what it takes to get into the cage.
But there’s a lot more to what it actually takes for a fighter to be truly ready for a fight that goes far beyond training and physically preparing for a bout. To hear Jeff Curran tell it, as he approached his last fight in the UFC against Johnny Eduardo, he had no business being in the Octagon that night, but it had nothing to do with his physical state.
Over the last few years to the casual observer, Curran was a veteran fighter trying to find his footing in the WEC before exiting for a few fights and then being brought back to the UFC. At one time Curran was a top ranked featherweight and then dropped to bantamweight where expectations were high.
What no one knew however outside of his closest friends and family was that Curran was going through the ringer mentally, and the strain was bringing his fighting career to a crashing halt.
“I was going through all of it. I had financial stress like I don’t ever want to have again in my life and I’ll be digging out of it for the next 20 years of my life and I’ve accepted that. Then I had two kids, no money, my gym’s suffering financially but it’s blowing up with students. I had a hard time paying bills, had a hard time paying staff, I mean I had no life,” Curran said in an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly.com.
$3 million dollars. That’s how much Curran was in debt after building his gym and putting in the necessary renovations to make it a top notch facility.
This was all during a time when he was competing at the highest level in the WEC against the top names in the sport like Urijah Faber, but Curran was able to put the mental strain away for the longest time, but eventually it caught up to him when he returned to the UFC last year.
“When I fought Urijah Faber and lost the fight, and then right after that I wanted the next best guy they could give me and I was really motivated for everybody they fed me so I have no regrets,” Curran said.
Beyond the financial stresses that were hammering down on Curran, he was also wrestling with the decision to drop down to 125lbs while also considering the idea of retiring from fighting all together.
Curran has been active in MMA since 1997 so the thought did cross his mind if he was successful in his last bout against Eduardo.
“I considered retiring off of a win. I wasn’t going to retire but the conversation had come up with my wife and some of my coaches and my team. It might have been a great time to do it. It wouldn’t have been a world championship, but it would have been my world championship,” said Curran.
Two months before the fight with Eduardo ever happened at UFC on Fuel TV 3, Curran was struggling with the idea of even taking the fight. The idea of moving down to 125lbs was looming and as he walked around on fight week at 140lbs, it crept even further into the crevasses of his mind.
“There was a point a couple of months before the fight where I was like maybe I don’t want to do this, I have a bad feeling. I don’t trust my gut enough when it comes to me cause I get caught up too much in being a fighter and I’ve stepped it up my whole life so I might as well step up one more time. Kind of wish I had listened to myself and not taken the fight,” Curran stated.
On fight night, all of those premonitions came true.
Curran couldn’t get inside on the taller Eduardo and after three somewhat lackluster rounds he walked to the back with a loss, his second one in a row, and the knowledge that he was probably going to be cut from the UFC yet again.
But the problems that mounted in the Eduardo fight didn’t discourage Curran – it actually motivated him. Gone were the thoughts of retirement because he wasn’t going to slink away into the shadows to go coach his team without giving it one more try because that he instills in all of his students.
“As soon as I was in the locker room I was like (expletive) that. It’s not even a question. I’m not even near that mindset now. I’m going to get back,” Curran stated.
The goal for Curran now is to learn how to turn the animal that he unleashes in the training room loose in the cage. On a daily basis, Curran hangs with his cousin, top ten ranked featherweight and Bellator champion Pat Curran, but he hasn’t been able to translate that into his own performances in the Octagon.
So now the goal is to take the Jeff Curran from the gym and make that the Jeff Curran we all see on fight night. The key, according to Curran, is to get the right kind of momentum behind him and then like Newton’s law says ‘an object in motion will stay in motion’.
“What’s the difference between him and me? I don’t know. He’s got some physical attributes that I don’t, he’s not tainted by a string of losses like I have been, or just too much time. Just being in the sport where I’ve been here so long, so he’s had an edge there mentally,” Curran described about working with his cousin Pat.
“I go into fights feeling like I did everything right to get ready, in sparring I feel great, in grappling I do great, I’ve got a personal wrestling coach, my strength and conditioning coach is on point, I mean I’m doing more now than when I was tearing it up. A lot of it has to do with momentum and that works both ways. It can work positively and it can work against you negatively and right now I have some negative momentum. I just need to get that right momentum going. Get the right momentum outside the UFC and then carry it into the UFC and make the right statement before I get there, I think I can carry it over.”
Curran is already working on putting the new plan into effect. The problems at his gym have been solved and with a new facility up and running, he’s got his mind free from the stresses he’s been carrying like luggage for the last five years.
“I got through that, I moved my gym, I simplified my life. It’s just a lot of things you don’t see what a fighter’s going through and why a fighter is performing the way he does. Excuses aren’t worth making,” Curran stated.
He returns on August 18 to face former Tachi Palace Fights contender Dustin Ortiz in his flyweight debut and the goal is to go out there and remember the Jeff Curran that was once a top ranked fighter.
The Jeff Curran that just didn’t get by with a decision win. He was dominant and he was putting guys away.
“I was told if I can go out there and be dominant at 125 and not just squeaking by on decisions and being quote ‘typical Jeff Curran fight’, if I can go out there and be the Jeff Curran from six or seven years ago, I was finishing a lot of fights, and I had an 80-percent win ratio by submission,” said Curran.
“There was a time where I was on fire and doing what I do best.”
Now it’s time for Jeff Curran to show what the best really looks like.