Curran ready for the final phase of his career
For UFC bantamweight Jeff Curran, the time is now.
After a disappointing loss to Matt Serra in 2004 in his lone UFC fight and a disheartening four-fight losing streak to cap off his career in the WEC, Curran is prepared to make what will be his last stint under the Zuffa banner a storybook ending.
But what makes him all the more grateful for the opportunity is that he was never sure if he would have the chance to fight in the promotion again. Curran remembers the day he received the call from Sean Shelby that the WEC had decided to release him and recalls thinking how trying the long journey back would be for him.
“At that point, everything seems far away because I knew what it took for me to get there in the first place. And now to have to go and do that all over again, it seemed pretty far.
“The chance to get back in the UFC was huge for me. I’ve had to jump around and do these (other) shows, and there is something cool about that. Like a free agent in a sense. It gets to a point where ultimately you want to be among the best.”
Curran’s return to the UFC’s bantamweight roster was everything he had hoped for, but a match up with the highly regarded Scott Jorgensen, whom he meets on the main card of UFC 137 on Saturday, October 27, made the news even sweeter.
Less than one year ago, Jorgensen was fighting for the WEC title against champion Dominick Cruz. While he came up short on the judges’ scorecards, the 12-4 fighter is still considered one of the top bantamweights on the planet. Curran is well aware of his upcoming opponent’s status as one of the division’s best, but he couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to welcome him back to the promotion, relishing the fact that Jorgensen always comes to fight.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Curran said. “Scott’s tough and he brings it every fight. He’s never in a boring fight, and I’ve always wanted to fight him because of his style. I respect him a lot.
“I just want to fight that kind of guy because a lot of people over the years have kind of shied away from my strengths and rode fights out. I don’t think Scott is going to take the easy street. I think he’s going to get out there and try to prove himself. And that’s what I’m trying to do, so it should make for an entertaining fight.”
News of his fight with Jorgensen had Curran salivating, knowing what a victory would do for him. Unfortunately, the highly-entertaining bantamweights were trapped on the preliminary card of the event, at least until an injury to former Ultimate Fighter contestant Brad Tavares forced the promotion to make changes to the pay per view portion of the event. Curran and Jorgensen got the call and were boosted onto the featured card, making the return of “Big Frog” all the more special.
The news left Curran elated, but not only because of the extra attention. The Illinois native was simply thrilled to know that by the time he walked through the tunnel, a packed crowd would be waiting for him at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been around this environment so much,” Curran said, regarding fighting on the main card. “I know what an Ultimate Fight Night is like with 4,000 people and I know what a UFC at Mandalay Bay is like sold out. Being one of the later prelims, it is hard to feel what the energy in the crowd is going to be like. What is my mindset going to be?
“I love more than anything that millions of people around the world are going to see me fight and that it’s a guaranteed spot on the pay per view card. It gives me that mindset of, ‘Okay, sold out arena.’ Everybody’s there. Nobody likes to miss the start of the main card. The arena is full. Everybody is amped up, and I get to be the first guy out of the tunnel.’”
When Curran comes storming out of the tunnel to kick of the UFC 137 main card, it could be one of the final times he ever does so.
Following his victory last May under the XFO banner, Curran stated that it was time to return to the UFC and that, if he did not get a call, he would seriously consider retiring and devoting his time to coaching.
Now that he has completed one of his goals – returning to the most successful promotion in the sport – Curran says retirement is far from his mind. At peace with where he is at in his career, the successful coach and fighter is comfortable entering his latest stint in the UFC, which will serve as the final chapter of his distinguished story as a mixed martial artist.
“There’s no trying to build back after this,” Curran said. “This is why I have such good peace of mind, because I’m not willing to put people in my life through the sacrifices I’ve had to make to get back to the UFC.
“I’m 100% focused on being with the UFC for a long time and finishing out my career here with a positive winning record and hopefully a chance at fighting for another world title someday.”