Unheralded heading into the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 2 lightweight tournament, 23-year-old Pat Curran ran the gauntlet, besting three favored opponents to earn a shot at current lightweight king Eddie Alvarez.

First, Curran (Pictured) took out Georges St. Pierre protégé Mike Ricci, knocking out the French-Canadian with a swift right hook one year ago. “Paddy Mike” followed that stunning debut with two more winning performances, outpointing both UFC veteran Roger Huerta and judo ace Toby Imada to capture the tournament crown.

On the cusp of his title shot against Alvarez, however, Curran was cut down with a shoulder injury that required surgery. While some might feel bitter about missing out on a title shot, Curran believes the perceived setback in 2010 might have actually been a gift for 2011.

“My shoulder injury took about a month to fully heal, and thank God it did. The injury was almost a blessing in disguise,” Curran said during a pre-fight conference call. “It gave me more time to prepare for Eddie and work on my game, so I’m actually glad that it happened so I could give my body enough time to rest and heal.”

Once again healthy, Curran will finally get his shot at Alvarez and the title on Saturday at the Mohengan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The pair will headline Bellator 39, which also features one of the Season 4 lightweight semifinal bouts.

“It’s an honor to fight Eddie for the lightweight title. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Curran. “It's in my thoughts all day long and in my dreams. So I’m very excited and anxious about this.”

Though most have made Alvarez the heavy betting favorite heading into the title bout, the No. 1 contender claims he is unfazed by his underdog status -- and for good reason. Curran has done all of his Bellator damage thus far with most picking against him or, worse, not even recognizing him. According to him, that will all change after his fight with Alvarez.

“[Being the underdog] doesn’t bother me,” Curran said. “But after this fight, people are definitely going to know who I am. It’s going to change how they think about me.”

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