pat-curran-8.jpgAfter fighting just once in 2012, Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran (18-4 MMA, 8-1 BFC) envisions an entirely different calendar year in 2013.

“If I have an injury, then of course I’m going to need to take that time off,” Curran told ( “But if everything feels 100 percent, I’m happy to get right back into it and keep it going.

“As a fighter, all I do is train every day, and all I want to do is keep improving and getting better. I think staying active as a fighter and getting back in the cage as soon as possible is really going to help me become a better fighter.”

Three months into this year, Curran is certainly living up that mantra. In January, he kicked off Bellator MMA’s current eight season with a successful title defense over Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. At next week’s season-ending Bellator 95 event, he returns to action against Season 7 tourney winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-1-1 MMA, 3-0 BFC).

Curran was originally expected to face Season 6 winner Daniel Straus before injury forced a late change in opponents. Despite a little more than one month to prepare for the switch, Curran said the desire to stay busy drove his decision to accept the change.

“It kind of caught me off-guard at first because we were preparing for Straus,” Curran said. “I wasn’t expecting him to have a hand injury. But that’s the name of the game, and it happens all the time. But I think there was five weeks’ notice, and I made the decision with my coaches. We thought it would be a good decision, and it was still plenty of time to prepare and to come up with the proper gameplan for him.

“He’s a great counter-puncher, a great striker. He’s very powerful, very explosive. It’s going to be an interesting style matchup between us two because I consider myself to be a counter-striker, as well. We match up really well.”

If Curran’s evaluation is correct, then fans could be in for a treat with two fighter who both enjoy a good firefight. From Curran’s point of view, it’s the perfect way to follow his back-and-forth split-decision win over Freire.

“I definitely trust my boxing now,” Curran said. “I’m starting to let my hands go. I’m more confident with my striking and my ability to stand and strike with somebody. I know I can take a punch, and I know I can fight five full rounds.

“The ‘Pitbull’ fight was a war. Both of us landed a lot of shots, and in the end I came out with the win. It’s nice to know I can go five rounds.”

Another impressive win will certainly add to the already impressive buzz surrounding Curran’s career. The 25-year-old was already a respected prospect when he came to to Bellator in 2010, but he’s since gone 8-1 for the promotion – including a perfect 5-0 at 145 pounds – and has climbed all the way to No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/ rankings.

Curran said he’s honored by the accolades but tries not to pay too much attention to anything other than his work in the gym.

“I don’t think about [my ranking] too much, but when people talk to me about it or mention it to me, of course, it feels really nice,” Curran said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and my fights prove it. I’m a workhorse, and I’ll just keep going. I just want to be considered the best, and I’m going to keep going for it.

“Once I got into Bellator, I was able to quit my full-time job and just train 100 percent, every day. That really, really helped me jump levels and bring my game to the next step. I learned a lot from the first tournament and losing to Eddie Alvarez. I came back a stronger fighter. Now I just train every day and focus all my time on training.”

Past Bellator champions have earned interest from the UFC, as attested by Hector Lombard’s move to the octagon and Eddie Alvarez’s ongoing dealings with the promotion. But Curran said he’s not worried about anyone else’s past moves. Right now, he’s happy staying busy and improving his game. He’s comfortable as Bellator champ and plans on staying there for the foreseeable future.

“I’m extremely happy in Bellator,” Curran said. “They take good care of me, and I’m very happy. I’m staying active, and that’s all I can really ask for as a fighter. I’m absolutely happy to stay with Bellator throughout the rest of my career, if it came down to that.

“I just want to put on a good show and keep everything going.”

Bellator 95 takes place April 4 at Ovation Hall at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J. The evening’s main card airs on Spike TV.

For the latest on Bellator 95, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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