“It was a growth period for me,” Straus told MMAWeekly.com. “I had my ups and down. I didn’t have as many fights as I’d like. I had a bad start, but then I had a great ending.
“On top of that I grew as a person, as a fighter, and as a father. It was just a year that I got to grow.”
Straus’ great ending for 2014 came in the shape of a 50-second knockout of former Strikeforce standout Justin Wilcox in October.
“I really wanted to get back to the belt. I wanted to make sure that mentally I was in the right place and was not here to just be here.”
With the win over Wilcox, Straus (23-5) has set himself up for a featherweight title match with current champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (22-2) at Bellator 132 in Temecula, Calif., on Friday.
“I feel like I have to go out there and just dominate him,” said Straus of Freire. “There’s no playing with this guy. He’s a monster. He’s very talented, a hard-hitting guy, and is very well-rounded. I have to go out and show that I’m the same way.
“I’m definitely not the same fighter he fought three years ago and he’s definitely going to know it. I’ve improved, everyone has seen my improvement, and he’s going to respect my improvement.”
While recapturing his title is a priority for Straus, winning the fight, regardless of accolades, is his main motivation.
“For me, first and foremost it’s the win,” he said. “The win is going to pay my bills. The win is going to keep me hungry. The win is what’s going to keep me satisfied.
“The icing on the cake is winning that belt. The icing on the cake is being labeled one of the best in the world. The icing on the cake is being able to fight top-tier guys day-in-day-out. If you don’t have the win, you don’t have any of those things.”