Pat Curran has won Bellator tournaments in two weight classes. | Photo: Dave Mandel
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- At first, Pat Curran did not feel comfortable throwing a head kick in camp, but his cousin, accomplished UFC, Pride Fighting Championships and WEC veteran Jeff Curran, stressed the technique’s time-tested utility when paired with a deceptive dart of the eyes.
“I landed that back 14 years ago; when I started, it used to work,” Curran told Sherdog.com. “I told him between rounds, ‘Look at his leg, go high.’ I was screaming at him to remember. I’ve landed it a number of times. Never like that, though.”
For his age and experience level, Pat Curran has consistently been a step ahead.
After nearly two rounds of chess-like striking exchanges with Sherdog.com’s No. 5-ranked 145-pounder, Marlon Sandro, in the Bellator Fighting Championships Summer Series featherweight tournament final, Curran landed a brilliantly placed head kick on Saturday at Bellator 48 that sealed an improbable accomplishment at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The 23-year-old won back-to-back tournaments in two weight classes under the Bellator banner, collecting a pair of jumbo $100,000 checks and high-level experience.
“It’s crazy. We’re not even at the fourth-year anniversary for him training,” Jeff Curran said. “People think he’s got this huge pedigree in wrestling. He only wrestled two years in high school at a local little school. Pat -- he is that new breed of guy; he’s fearless. Technically, he gives everybody respect, enough to be humble, enough to know they’re capable of beating him. But he just wants nobody to touch him. He’s always just one of those guys that finds a way.”
Last year, Pat Curran counterstruck his way through hot Canadian prospect Mike Ricci, UFC veteran Roger Huerta and Toby Imada to win Bellator’s second 155-pound tournament. He later hung tough with Bellator lightweight king Eddie Alvarez, staying composed through a barrage of punishing body shots over 25 minutes. Despite the defeat, he had not hit his ceiling, resiliently running Bellator’s 145-pound field with his win over Sandro just four months after losing to Alvarez in the same venue.
“It was a long road for the lightweight tournament, but it was a great experience. I learned a lot,” Curran said while rushing out of a press conference to get a gash over his left eye stitched. “Now, I’m back. I’m a little more experienced, well-rounded and I just want to get the championship belt. That’s all that’s in my head right now.”
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney indicated a hand injury to fellow 145-pound tournament winner Patricio “Pitbull” Freire will dictate how soon Curran gets a second crack at gold. Rebney said Freire is expected to be back in the gym in three to four weeks and will need a couple months of training after that to prepare for champion Joe Warren. Meanwhile, Warren is part of Bellator’s 135-pound tournament that starts in the fall and could be fighting for a new title come November.
Regardless of how far Warren goes in the bantamweight tournament, he will fight Freire afterwards at 145. The winner will then defend against Curran, Rebney said.
Curran can use the recoup time. In addition to the cut, he was nursing a sore ankle from kicks he landed in the Sandro fight, including the show-closing blow. Jeff Curran said he was looking forward to continuing to help mold his cousin. The veteran will also gain from his younger relative’s verve as he prepares for another UFC run.
“These are the kind of guys you get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with,” he said. “I’m glad he’s family.”
It was Curran who laid the groundwork to get his younger cousin into Bellator. He knew the promotion had an open slot in last year’s lightweight tournament and put some gentle pressure on his fellow Chicagoan, Rebney, to give a relative unknown a shot.
“He said, ‘I know you’ve got one spot left. I’ve got this kid. He’s amazing. He’s going to be a superstar,’” Rebney said. “We were, like, ‘Dude, he’s 3-2 [in his last five fights], and he’s a featherweight. This is a lightweight tournament.’ Just out of respect for Jeff, we said, ‘Alright, we’ll give him a shot.’ We were, like, ‘Whatever, we’ll throw him in and kind of feed him to Mike Ricci.’ And he just started winning and winning in dramatic, explosive fashion.
“The next time Jeff Curran comes to me and says anything, I’m going to believe it like it’s the gospel,” the Bellator CEO joked, “because, right now, Pat Curran I believe very honestly belongs in the Top 4 in the world at 145 pounds.”
For now, Curran will return home to Florida to savor his earnings and, next week, celebrate his 24th birthday: spoils of a head kick hesitantly thrown and richly rewarded, providing a glimpse into a very bright future.
“I really don’t know what’s next,” he said. “I’m just going to keep training in the gym, keep grappling, keep improving my skills and just wait for the call.”