Pat Curran (18-4), the reigning Bellator featherweight champion, puts his title on the line tonight against Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-1-1) at Bellator 95 on SpikeTV. This will be Curran’s second title defense of 2013 after a decision victory against Patricio Freire in January. He won the title in March 2012, but spent much of the rest of the year dealing with injuries. Curran, who is now 5-0 as a Bellator featherweight, is healthy and looking forward to a busy and dominant stretch atop the division. I spoke with Curran on Tuesday before he started his final weight cut.
Q: How are you feeling? What is left in these last couple days before your fight?
Pat Curran – The last couple days have been about getting through training nice and smooth. Making sure there are no injuries. Making sure your body is recovering and getting my weight down. Portion my food back and I’m just focused on making weight.
Q: What goes through your mind when you are this close to a fight?
PC – You know, pretty much every fight I go through, i think so much about it through my training camps. Now that I’m just a few days out from my fight I kind of just relaxing. My mind is clear. I know I’m 100-percent ready for it. Mainly just focusing on cutting the weight and getting through that. Come fight time I get re-focused and think about the gameplan. Pretty much going to battle.
Q: When weigh-ins are over, do you have big dinner plans?
PC – We always get everyone together. We have family coming to town. We all go out and sit down for a bite and relax. I get to fill myself back up with good food and drinks.
Q: You’re fighting a guy who has finished his last five opponents. (Shamhalaev’s lone loss came in 2009 and he has knocked out his last five opponents.) How does that affect your gameplan?
PC – It doesn’t really. Just knowing that he is a really good striker and has a lot of power in his hands, that’s something to watch out for and you have to take into consideration, but mentally, its not affecting my game at all. He definitely wants to stand and trade with me, but anything can happen. This is an MMA fight. I’m very comfortable going to the ground. I’m very comfortable standing and working my angles and outstrike him as well. I’m looking forward to showing all aspects of my game and putting on a great performance.
Q: You fought 4 times in 2011, but only once in 2012. What do you want the rest of 2013 to look like?
PC – I like to stay active as a fighter, but unfortunately I was injured last year and wasn’t able to fight as much. This year I’ve been fortunate and haven’t had any serious injuries that would keep me out of training camp. I’m able to keep training and go through a sharp training camp. That’s all I can ask for.
Q: Your last two fights followed pretty long layoffs. How does it feel to have a relatively quick turnaround?
PC – The only difference is that your body maybe gets out of fighting shape. You’re constantly in the gym training and working on things. I like to stay in the gym as it is. If I’m in there training all the time, I like to stay active as a fighter and get in the cage as much as possible. I think that is the best way to grow as a fighter. As long as you stay active, you’re constantly in the gym trying out new things and getting cage experience that’s good.
Q: I’m going to jump back a little bit. When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to do when you grew up?
PC – I never knew what I wanted to do. Earlier in high school I was planning on going towards firefighting or being a paramedic. I went to school for that but my cousin Jeff* stayed on me and wanted me to come up to Chicago and start training. He stayed on me long enough that he finally convinced me. I made the move and decided to try it out. As a kid I never knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a firefighter, but that never worked out.
Q: You’re 25 and you have already won and defended a championship belt in a major organization. Have you thought about what else you want to accomplish in your career and how long you want to fight?
PC – I hate losing. I want to be considered the best. I want to keep improving. I want to keep getting better as a fighter and growing as a fighter. The way I look at it, I’m just starting to peak in my career. I’m only 25 years old. I still have a long career ahead of me. I just want to keep improving.
Q: How long do you want your career to last?
PC – I don’t mean for another 10-15 years. Fighters have very short careers. Early thirties maybe.
Q: When you retire, what do you want people to say about you?
PC – I want them to look back and think that I was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and one of the best fighters of all-time. That’s what I want to be known as.
Q: How do you see the fight going down Thursday?
PC – I see it ending many ways. In training I see myself knocking him out. I see it going to the ground. I want to submit him or knock him out, but I’m ready for him to drag it out. It could drag out all five rounds and be a stand up war like my last fight. I’m prepared to go five rounds, but I’m looking for that one shot or submission that could end it. But I’m ready to go twenty-five minutes.
Bellator 95 takes place SpikeTV tonight at 10pm Eastern, live from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Pat Curran defends his featherweight title against Shahbulat Shamhalaev, Brett Cooper takes on Doug Marshall in the middleweight tournament final and Magomedrasul fights Mike Richman in the featherweight tournament final. Rick Hawn and Karo Parisyan kick off the card. MMAJunkie has the full lineup.
*Pat’s cousin, Jeff Curran is a veteran of 49 professional fights. He has fought in the UFC, WEC, Bellator, Pride and Strikeforce.
[Image via Getty]
Previously: Pat Curran’s Head-Kick KO At Bellator 48