Pat Curran has been at the top of the mountain a few times in his career but as mid-2016 approaches, the Illinois native finds himself at a critical crossroads in his career.
He can ill-afford to lose on Friday when he climbs into the cage against Georgi Karakhanyan at Bellator 155, but with a complete overhaul of virtually everything in his life complete, he’s out to rejuvenate his standing as one of the best featherweights in the world.
Curran captured the Bellator featherweight championship twice during a span that saw him go 11-2 with six stoppages. Among his victims during this hot streak were Joe Warren, Patricio Freire, Roger Huerta, Mike Ricci and Daniel Straus. But after he conquered Straus in their rematch at Bellator 112 in March 2014 to recapture his 145-pound crown, he lost in his next bout to Freire in their rematch at Bellator 123.
A loss to Daniel Weichel followed and suddenly Curran went from the pinnacle to the pit. He had lost two in a row and three of four overall and was quickly becoming an afterthought in the sport. Desperation had set in and with his back against the wall, he edged Emmanuel Sanchez over three rounds, but the feeling of relief wasn’t enough to ease the amount of stress, anxiety and pressure he put on himself going into that fight.
“I put it in my head that if I lost that fight I was done,” he admitted to Sherdog.com in a recent interview. “I added all this extra stress and pressure onto myself and I was nervous. I knew that I had to come out of there with a win no matter what. I stayed away from all of his shots, I moved a lot. I thought I fought well and I got the win but I don’t ever want to have to put myself through that [anguish] ever again.”
To make sure that never happened again, Curran opted to leave everything behind in the Land of Lincoln and headed southeast. He found a new home in Florida with the popular Blackzilians squad and he is convinced the change has made him twice the fighter he was before.
“I made a lot of changes in my personal life and in my training,” he said. “I found my motivation and drive again. I’m having fun training for this fight and I’m ready for this. I think this will be one of my best performances. I really like it down here. There are a lot of great guys, great fighters and coaches and these guys really push me. They have brought out the absolute best in me.
“I needed to get out of Illinois and kind of start over fresh with new coaches and new training partners,” he added. “I felt as though I was kind of stuck where I was and that I wasn’t really progressing or moving forward. Working with this team has really opened my eyes and brought out a different, better Pat Curran.”
Standing in his way toward regaining his lost featherweight strap will be the always-tough Karakhanyan, a man equally as experienced who is also coming to a crossroads as well. He’s lost two of his last three, so both combatants have put a premium on winning, something that excites “Paddy Mike.” And, most importantly, he believes he knows just what to do against his opponent.
“He’s a very tough opponent,” he stated. “He’s a good kickboxer, very explosive and when he commits to his strikes he can really close the distance fast. On top of that, he has a very solid chin. He also has a very good front headlock so when we scramble, I have to be aware of his guillotine and not to give up my neck so easily. It will be a tough match for me but I feel very confident in my reach and my speed. I’m just going to have to stay one step ahead of him.”