ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – For Pat Curran, he’s in a little bit of Foo Fighters mode right now: “Done, done, on to the next one.”
He’s just not sure when that next one will be – or who it will be against.
Curran (19-4 MMA, 9-1 BFC), Bellator’s featherweight champ, on Thursday defended his title for the second time with a quick first-round submission of Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-2-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) in the main event of Bellator 95, the promotion’s Season 8 finale.
Bellator 95 took place at Revel Atlantic City in New Jersey with a main card on Spike TV after prelims on Spike.com.
After the fight, Curran said he’s ready to go right away, and next on his plate is tournament winner Daniel Straus, who had to pull out of Thursday’s fight with a hand injury, making room for fellow tourney winner Shamhalaev a little early.
Just how soon Straus can go thanks to the hand injury and some potential legal difficulty from an arrest in Florida for traffic and drug charges, though, remains to be seen.
“As long as I’m healthy and have no injuries, I want to get right back at it,” Curran said at Thursday’s post-event news conference. “But that’s up to (CEO) Bjorn (Rebney) and the guys at Bellator, and my coaches. We’ll come up with a game plan on when to get back in there next.”
Bellator will hold another “Summer Series” with one event per month in June, July and August. It’s conceivable that Curran could defend the title at one of those events against Straus if he’s able – or against Season 8 featherweight tournament winner Magomedrasul “Frodo” Khasbulaev, who beat Mike Richman on Thursday to fall into the queue behind Straus.
Rebney said Khasbulaev could potentially be in position to do what the promotion had to do with Shamhalaev when Straus was injured, and that’s jump ahead a spot in line with Straus remaining behind ready to face the winner when fully healed.
“He’s got Daniel Straus coming up, he’s got ‘Frodo’ coming up – he’s got a full tablet,” Rebney said. “But he’s keeps taking care of business in short order. We’ll keep putting together tournaments and feeding him the next one.”
Rebney praised Curran, who is the only two-division tournament winner in Bellator history. The Illinois-based fighter, cousin of former WEC and UFC fighter Jeff Curran, who is his lead trainer, won the lightweight tournament, but lost a title shot against then-champ Eddie Alvarez.
He then dropped down to featherweight and has climbed the ranks to become arguably the best featherweight outside of the UFC – but who Rebney believes is the best 145-pounder in the world.
“I honestly think this is the best featherweight in the world,” Rebney said. “The evolution of Pat Curran has just been an amazing thing to see. The standup is there – we’ve seen the incredible knockout power. The submission game is there. His technical expertise inside the cage is second to none. He adapts to everything inside the cage that’s thrown at him – he has an answer for any puzzle he’s faced with. I’m hugely impressed watching this guy fight, and I’m thrilled he’s fighting in this organization.”
Curran is a self-described slow starter. And that’s how the first couple minutes went against Shamhalaev. But that was all part of Curran’s game plan, and even though he didn’t plan for a quick finish, latching onto a guillotine choke just seconds after taking the Russian down, he definitely was prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.
If there has been criticism of his slow style in the past, he’s comfortable with it.
“Five rounds, 25 minutes is a long time,” Curran told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I like to take my time and find my openings. I’m a slow starter, but that’s my style. I get to read guys a little bit better, find my openings a little bit easier and just get my timing down. I think that’s key to a five-round war. I’m prepared to go five rounds every time, and I want to take my time the first round and get my timing and skills down. Once I get my range, I start turning it up and putting the pace on him.”
It just so happened that putting the pace on Shamhalaev came midway through the first round. One opening was all Curran needed.
Taking Shamhalaev down to see just what his ground game might present was in the game plan, and it wound up working to perfection.
“We obviously knew Shambulat had a lot of power in his hands, and we wanted to keep our hands high and watch out for his power shots – especially his overhand right,” he said. “We didn’t see too much of his ground game, so we wanted to expose that a little and test that out. Once I got him to the ground, he scrambled right back to his feet. I saw the opening and I just went for it right away. Once I latched on, I was holding on for dear life and wasn’t going to let that go.”
For the latest on Bellator 95, stay tuned to the MMA Events section of the site.