Pat Curran's cousin, Jeff Curran, had long been one of the best fighters in the world, competing in both the now-defunct World Extreme Cagefighting organization as well as the UFC.

He saw his cousin defeating some of the world's elite mixed martial arts fighters and thought to himself, "I could do that."

Getting into the cage, though, was an entirely different story. 

"In the beginning, it was kind of [intimidating]," Pat Curran said. "I didn't know anything about the sport, other than what I knew from watching on TV. I saw guys getting knocked out left and right, sometimes turned into a bloody mess, and it was like, 'Whoa.' It could get to you.

"It took years of experience and getting my [expletive] kicked every day before I finally got it figured out."

Pat Curran has now become one of the world's elite fighters. He's the Bellator featherweight champion and is generally regarded as one of the world's top-five 145-pounders.

He's 18-4 and has wins over the likes of Marlon Sandro, Patricio Freire, Roger Huerta and Mike Ricci, among others.

On Thursday, he'll defend his title against Shahbulat Shamhalaev in the main event of Bellator 95 on Spike TV in Atlantic City, N.J.

If he's at the top – and despite his title and lofty ranking, he insists he's still learning – it was a decidedly rocky road. Serving as a human punching bag for two of the world's best fighters isn't exactly most folks' idea of a pleasant job experience.

But Curran dueled with his cousin and Bart Palaszewski day after day, taking poundings as he learned the nuances of the business.

"They just beat me up the first couple of years," he said. "I mean, every time we sparred, I was just beaten up. I mean, beaten up. I told myself that I'd proven I could take any punch and it is really the case. I had conditioned my body over the years to taking the punishment and continuing to fight."

He saw progress coming slowly, and the one thing that Pat Curran had going for him was that he was not in a rush. He wanted to learn, and wanted to become an elite fighter.

What he didn't want to do was take shortcuts and trick himself into thinking he was better than he was. So, as a result, he accepted the punishment he was taking as part of the job and slowly, but surely, began to get better.

Eventually, it got to the point where he was giving as good, if not better, than he was taking.

He began with a base of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but it is the improvement in his striking that has helped him to become one of the world's finest featherweights.

He's quickly becoming one of the faces of the Bellator promotion. The fight with Shamalaev figures to be a stand-up battle that should attract plenty of attention.

Curran has become one of Bellator's biggest boosters. While it's a distant second to the UFC in the MMA pecking order, he's convinced that the promotion is about to rise to new heights.

Over the last several years, it got little national exposure. Switching to Spike and its nearly 100 million television homes in January has made a difference.

Bellator's number seems to be about 750,000 average viewers each week, not a bad figure but certainly nothing overwhelming. Curran, though, believes it's only a matter of time before the rest of the country catches on to the Bellator story.

Strikeforce formerly held the spot of the unofficial No. 2 promotion behind the UFC. It was undone by a variety of reasons, not the least of which was its fighters openly pining to compete in the UFC.

Other than lightweight Eddie Alvarez, Bellator hasn't had that kind of public fissure, and Curran believes dramatic growth is close at hand.

"I know 100 percent that Bellator is going to explode," he said. "We've got the talent. We've got the main stage now. Our fighters are incredible and we're putting on great shows week after week.

"Look at what UFC is doing [cutting fighters]. They're letting guys go left and right. Bellator is a new, up-and-coming organization. As a fighter, why wouldn't I want to be a part of that? ... We're really on the edge of the place where we're going to explode and everyone will be talking about us."

Look for everyone to be talking about Curran after his bout with Shamalaev. For a guy who spent years being pummeled while learning the game, it's a fresh change to become the guy handing out the beatings.

Memorable Moments from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Yankees keep Alex Rodriguez at arm's length as season opens
Jazz PG Jamaal Tinsley's alley-oop starts from incredible spot
Trades for vet QBs could hurt Geno Smith
NBA Power Rankings: Heat in control

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

How Nate Diaz turned the UFC upside down (Yahoo Sports)

  • 20 days ago
  • 29 views

From Yahoo Sports: Diaz came from nothing and now has plenty. But he didn't get to this point immediately, or with luck. It took some self-realization and business smarts. read news >>

How Nate Diaz used his mind to turn the UFC upside down (Yahoo Sports)

  • 20 days ago
  • 86 views

From Yahoo Sports: Diaz came from nothing and now has plenty. But he didn't get to this point immediately, or with luck. It took some self-realization and business smarts. read news >>

How Brock Lesnar has changed since his first UFC stint (Yahoo Sports)

  • 19 days ago
  • 7 views

From Yahoo Sports: Lesnar was more surly than charismatic in his first UFC run. But he's seems right at home in his long-awaited return. read news >>

How Brock Lesnar has changed since his first UFC stint (Yahoo Sports)

  • 19 days ago
  • 8 views

From Yahoo Sports: Lesnar was more surly than charismatic in his first UFC run. But he seems right at home in his long-awaited return. read news >>

James Gallagher Predicts a Finish of Mike Cutting at Bellator 158

  • 12 days ago
  • 6 views

James Gallagher predicts that he'll finish Mike Cutting in their Bellator MMA 158 featherweight bout on July 16 at O2 Arena in London. read news >>

Michael Page Looking To ‘Leave a Mark’ at Bellator 158 in London

  • 12 days ago
  • 27 views

Undefeated Bellator MMA welterweight contender Michael "Venom" Page puts his unbeaten streak on the line at Bellator 158 against Evangelista Santos in London. read news >>

Bellator 158: Daley vs. Lima Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

  • 12 days ago
  • 32 views

Bellator MMA takes London on Saturday from The O2 Arena. A crucial welterweight bout tops the Bellator 158 card as Paul Daley takes on Douglas Lima. The 170-pound division will again be on the displa read news >>

Bellator 158: Daley vs. Lima Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

  • 12 days ago
  • 18 views

Bellator MMA takes London on Saturday from The O2 Arena. A crucial welterweight bout tops the Bellator 158 card as Paul Daley takes on Douglas Lima. The 170-pound division will again be on the displa read news >>

Paul Daley on Bellator 158 Douglas Lima Bout: ‘I Have to Knock Him Out’

  • 11 days ago
  • 12 views

Paul "Semtex" Daley faces Douglas Lima in the Bellator 158 main event at the O2 Arena on London on July 16 an plans to score a knockout. read news >>

WSOF Signs UFC and Bellator Veteran Paul Bradley

  • 11 days ago
  • 6 views

World Series of Fighting announced on Thursday that it has signed UFC and Bellator veteran Paul Bradley. read news >>