Curtis Millender had a rough Bellator debut. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Curtis Millender knows a few things about making adjustments on the fly.
It’s why, as his second son, Carter Meringo Millender, was born in the middle of his Bellator 137 camp, the California resident only took one day off from training. (He also managed to fulfill some of his interview obligations in a hospital bathroom while visiting the newest member of his family).
Millender also knows a little something about trying to make adjustments in the cage, and what happens when things go wrong.
Originally slated to face British striker Michael Page at Bellator 134, Millender received a change in a opponent -- and fighting style -- just a few days ahead of his Feb. 27 bout. Instead of Page, Millender would make his promotional debut against wrestler Brennan Ward. It didn’t go well: The Reign Training Center/NOC Fight Team product was stunned by a combination, then submitted via rear-naked choke just 1:37 into the welterweight contest.
Although Millender claims that the last-minute alteration didn’t get inside his head, he also admits that he might not have been as focused as he should have.
“It didn’t affect me mentally. I probably should have let it affect me a little bit more mentally and just took it a little bit more serious to help me transition more,” Millender told Sherdog.com. “The first combination I hit him I was like, ‘I could hit this guy.’ After he took the first shot and I stuffed it fairly easily, I was still comfortable but he caught me making a mistake going backwards.”
Even after the decisive loss, one fact was abundantly clear to Millender.
“He was not better than me at all,” he said.
Millender will get a second chance to prove himself at Bellator 137, as he takes on the streaking Fernando Gonzalez at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., on May 15. The bout will air as part of the Spike TV main card beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Gonzalez enters the bout with consecutive triumphs over Karl Amoussou, Karo Parisyan and Marius Zaromskis under the Bellator banner. When it comes to assessing his opponent’s fighting skills, Millender is impressed more with Gonzalez’s mentality than any one thing he does in the cage.
“Just very tough, heart of lion. He comes forward. I wouldn’t say there’s anything that stands out as special,” Millender said. “But that the fact that he comes to fight, [I know] he’s gonna bring the fight to me.”
With a newborn son in tow, Millender is not lacking for extra motivation. But he also wants to prove that he is capable of more than he showed in his abbreviated loss to Ward. In a perfect world, Millender would fight four times in 2015. If one of those bouts turns out to be a date with Page, even better. Page is currently scheduled to face Rudy Bears at Bellator 140 on July 17.
“I haven’t heard much about who they gave him or what the next fight is going to be,” Millender said. “I’m excited to see it. I still want that fight.”