by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
With PRIDE anticipating a larger amount of shows in the US this year, they are investing more predominantly in American fighters across all weight classes. Among those fighters that figure to make an impact for the promotion is lightweight MMA veteran Jeff Curran.

Jeff, who previously fought in numerous promotions including the UFC before joining PRIDE, is entering his 10th year of fighting by headlining this Friday’s King of the Cage show in Rockford, Illinois against up and comer Donny Walker.

While finalizing his training for his KOTC fight, Curran spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss Walker, this past year and his future prospects in PRIDE and abroad.

MMAWeekly: First off Jeff, tell us about your upcoming fight this Friday for King of the Cage in Rockford.

Jeff Curran: It’s my second time fighting for KOTC; it’s [going to be] in Rockford, Illinois, and my opponent is not the most feared fighter, Donny Walker. I think he’s 3-1 as a pro, but he trains with Jason Dent, who I fought a couple years ago [at XFO 3]. According to their [Team Griffonrawl] website, he’s going to fair well against me. It’s them kind of taking the fight…not…they know exactly what they are getting into, I just think they’re looking to take a long shot and hopefully do well with me or something.

MMAWeekly: Not knowing Walker directly, but who he trains with, what do you anticipate in this fight?

Jeff Curran: I’m just going to fight like normal. I don’t anticipate him to be dominating at anything, but maybe he’s as good as me standing, maybe he’s okay [at] wrestling, I just don’t think overall he’s going to be able to put it together as good [as I am]. I’m definitely not taking him lightly. I’m holding out, waiting for my next PRIDE deal, so I don’t want a loss on my record. I’m taking every fight like it’s the biggest fight of my life. I just want to get a nice win and hopefully end it as quickly as I can. My last three fights have gone to decision and it’s put a wear and tear on my body the last three months.

MMAWeekly: Tell us your thoughts on how you fared in 2006.

Jeff Curran: It’s been a really good year. My one upset was when I didn’t do enough homework on [Hatsu] Hioki in PRIDE. When I fought him [at Bushido 12], I knew he was tall and I thought he was going to totally shoot in and try to take me down, and I was hoping he would do that, but he was the opposite. He was actually better standing than I thought. He was standing up and just kicking my legs, and that was the worst experience of the year: just taking that kind of punishment to my lead leg and not being able to make anything else happen in the fight and losing it and “my shot,” I guess you could say.

That was a little bit of a disappointment for me, but I beat undefeated fighters: Wagnney Fabiano and Raphael Assuncao, both in close split-decision, but a win’s a win in my book and I fought them booth good and fought them hard. So the whole year turned out pretty good…I’m just glad it’s over and I’m starting fresh.

MMAWeekly: You’re entering into your 10th year of fighting. How do you feel this past year helped add to your continued evolution as a fighter this far into your career?

Jeff Curran: Lately the biggest thing I’ve been doing is concentrating my speed and agility training. I have a trainer that runs a speed program all the time, who trains athletes from all sports. The training doesn’t change much, but it’s so challenging. I mean every workout you want to throw up. You’re pushing your body it seems so much harder than sparring, grappling, and hitting pads. We just train like crazy, it’s been awesome. I get in the ring in the past three fights I’ve had, I’m not even breathing heavy and I’m just going.

The leg kick thing with Hioki just kind of opened my eyes. A few years ago I started boxing pro and I feel like I regressed in my Thai-boxing. I used to be better with my legs than I was with my hands, and now I’m more into my hands than legs. So I’ve gone back to a more traditional style of Thai-boxing and already in sparring its like night and day. That’s really just me kind of realizing that I went backwards for MMA a little bit there to develop my hands, now it’s all kind of meshed together and works out better.

MMAWeekly: So when fighters see your name on the card they can expect to face off against a much more well-rounded fighter who can push the pace and keep it up?

Jeff Curran: Definitely, that’s the plan. Another thing is, instead of walking around at 145lbs, I’m walking around at 165lbs and that makes me solid at 155lbs. My last fight was at 155lbs and this fight is, so I’ve moved up in weight for the time being so I can be a little more to deal with in the PRIDE arena. That’s going to help me gain an advantage when I move back down to my normal 145lb weight class. I’ll have a little bit more strength than I normally did at the weight.

MMAWeekly: Where would you like to see yourself career-wise this year?

Jeff Curran: I would like to see myself successful in PRIDE, working towards maybe in a year away from now being considered for a lightweight grand prix. That’s one angle that’s big thing to me, another thing is the WEC thing. The WEC right now has Urijah Faber fighting Joe Pearson [for the WEC 145lb Championship]. Pearson’s got a great triangle and comes from a good camp, but I don’t see him beating Faber.

Faber is getting all the hype and to me, he’s the guy I want, I want to fight him – he looks like a lot of fun to fight. The kid’s got my respect and I would want to see how I would do with this kind of fighter who has a lot of hype at 145lbs and is the mirror image of me size-wise. Hopefully the WEC/UFC/Zuffa relationship works out well and the division explodes and I’m making money and working towards world titles at my natural weight class. That’s what I’m hoping for by year’s end.

MMAWeekly: In recent interviews with us, fighters such as Bart Palaszewski and Mark Hominick have mentioned how your training with them has been a big factor in their success. How do you feel about the training/coaching aspect of your career?

Jeff Curran: My gym right now is so successful; we’re at 300 members right now and growing. We’ve got a full-time staff and my pro fighter list is growing. I’ve got like 6 pros, another 5 armatures, and like 15 boxers. I love coaching and being a part of helping people develop.

I really feel like when I get someone like Mark Hominick or Sam Stout come in from out of town it’s refreshing. If I spend a week with Mark he’s going to be so receptive of the training and the pressure’s on me. He’s here for less than a week, so I have to make sure he goes away with something. I love that, I love the responsibility of that.

Mark’s actually flying in on Sunday, January 21st for 4-5 days getting ready for Hioki [at the next TKO]. He fought him once, I fought him and now we’re going to come up with a gameplan to beat him so hopefully Mark can get his TKO title back. So yeah, that’s something I’m going to pursue the rest of my life, especially when I’m done fighting.

MMAWeekly: Aside from fighting and training others, you also are a successful promoter with the XFO and Evolution shows. What can we expect from them in this coming year?

Jeff Curran: We’ll continue to do our regular shows. We always bring back a lot of UFC/PRIDE/WEC veterans that have some good wins and success but maybe need to regroup and stay busy while they reach a new level to get back to something bigger. I think we’re kind of like that polish zone where a fighter can come to us because people are coming out of the XFO successfully and go to a bigger show.

At the same time people from organizations want to make sure they stay busy and they want to make sure they fight for a legitimate organization. So it definitely helps us. We’ll do one super show every year, we do an outdoor show that’s getting pretty famous in the area and holds about 2,000 people, so we’ve got good plans.

MMAWeekly: It’s definitely looking like 2007 is shaping up to be a big, busy year for you.

Jeff Curran: Yeah, and to top the start of the year I have KOTC this week…the week after I have small show in Rockford called Evolution, that me and my partner Dan do…and then a couple weeks after that my baby’s due, I’ve got a little boy on the way…so it’s a busy start.

MMAWeekly: With all that we may need to get you a wheelchair or oxygen or something to keep you going huh?

Jeff Curran: Yeah, or something…hook me up to an IV. [Laughs]

MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Jeff, it’s always appreciated. Is there anything you want to say as we head out?

Jeff Curran: I do want thank some sponsors: Fairtex Gear, they always take care of me…my guys from Pride Nutrition at PrideNutrition.com, they’ve had a big part in my strength training that’s gone hand in hand with my guy Dave Davis from the Davis Speed Center at DavisSpeedCenter.com. All those guys have helped me out, so I wanted to say thanks to those guys and my friends, family and everybody that’s helped out.

I know there’s a scheduled 11 or 12 bouts, KOTC is always an awesome show live because they’re fight after fight and they put a lot into their production, tickets are pretty affordable and realistic and Rockford’s a fun place. So for anybody thinking about coming out, I definitely invite them to come out and have a good time. I know my fights always come out entertaining.