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PRO MMA exclusive interview: Jeff Curran

PRO MMA (promma.info) recently spoke to Jeff Curran (29-10-1), one of the WEC’s top fighters who will be in Chicago this Sunday night, April 5th, at WEC 40: TORRES vs. MIZUGAKI, taking on Joseph Benavidez.

Jeff talks about his training leading up to this fight, how he plans to deal with Benavidez, and how the bad blood between he and WEC Bantamweight Champion, Miguel Torres, got started.

The “Big Frog” also lets us know how he got that nickname and opens up about his relationship and feelings regarding the late Charles Lewis Jr. a.k.a. “Mask” from Tapout. Jeff even lets us in on his secret workout music that really pumps him up and prepares him for battle. You may be surprised.

Jeff Curran interview (audio):
[podcast]http://promma.info/audio/jeffcurran.mp3[/podcast]

PRO MMA: Now Jeff your next fight on April 5th in your hometown of Chicago, Illinois. First question has to be how many people are asking you for tickets?
Curran: You know what no one has asked me for free tickets believe it or not other than the guy down at Comcast studios, but my students are asking me if they can buy them from me and thankfully they don’t release tickets for us to sale they have to go through Ticketmaster so that takes a little stress off me.

PRO MMA: You have been training down in Florida for this fight, how has that been going?
Curran: I went down there for one week. I would have gone longer but time wise it’s close to the fight and you know I got two kids home and stuff and it’s hard to leave everybody for so long, but I would have gone longer like I said but the one week I was there I got some awesome training in. I got to mix it up with some really good talent down there. I wouldn’t want to say a whole new perspective on MMA but definitely brought to life some of the finer points that maybe I let hang back for too long.

PRO MMA: When you’re home here in Chicago who are you training with?
Curran: I train at my gym. I’ve got my boxing coach Doug Mango, my main training partner is WEC fighter Bart Palaszewski, Nate Mohr four time UFC fighter, and my cousin Pat Curran and all my students and that’s my normal. Then I have my wrestling coach, coaches over at Overtime wrestling. So I go to a separate wrestling school once a week and then they come out here a couple days a week and work on my wrestling so I’ve got a pretty good mix.

PRO MMA: Now your next fight is against Joseph Benavidez and he is 9-0 with 6 submissions, everyone knows you’re very good on the ground with slick submissions. How do you see this fight going?
Curran: A body type like his, the only submission he could really possibly catch me in if he were, would be like a guillotine, but I’m definitely not going to be sticking my neck anywhere it doesn’t belong. He is a tough opponent but man I just feel like I have the edge on him in every way, I don’t think that his wrestling is even better than mine to be honest with you.

PRO MMA: Now you and Miguel Torres have gotten in a war of words here in the last couple of weeks, how did this even get started?
Curran: There is probably like a handful of 12 year old kids who are sitting in their basements online making comments about who they feel will beat who and why. Just online guys, Internet warriors that go on and argue their points and one post in particular really got me going a while back basically saying I don’t belong in a title shot or even close to it with Torres. So I just went on and responded with some facts about my career and his career and percentages and statistics that don’t really lie I guess you could say. That kind of got him thinking that I was talking some shit, there was a lot of back and forth. I just got off of a conference call with Miguel, I mean there is no bad blood. I think I am getting to him a little bit, I actually know I am getting to him a little bit, he has even said it on national television. I don’t mean to get to him, I really just mean to let the fans know how excited I am at making my run at the 135lb belt and Torres just so happens to be the guy.

PRO MMA: Now say you do make that run, you string a few fights together, you get to the title shot  and Miguel Torres is still there how do you beat Miguel Torres?
Curran: Well I think this is the only fight I need to win, if I win this fight impressive I got a title shot. I mean it’s not a guarantee title shot, I mean if I come out of this with a close decision or something or a boring fight then I’m not a contender, and I understand that. I have to perform at my best abilities and really show I belong, but if I do that against Benavidez then I definitely have pretty much been given the verbal on the title shot. So I’m hoping one fight and then Miguel, then the way to beat Miguel? I don’t know, he hasn’t been beaten much. The one guy that beat him, beat him by decision. I know what his body type is dangerous when it comes to jiu-jitsu and I definitely know the range I don’t want to stand in front of him with as far as the reach goes. I have some really distinctive training approaches I’ll have to take in order to fight him, but as far as what my strategy goes I haven’t even thought of that yet.

PRO MMA: Now you have fought two WEC champions already in your last two fights in Uriah Faber and Mike Brown. Those two are now going to rematch who do you have winning that fight?
Curran: Man I don’t think guys at 145lb are going to handle Mike Brown. I don’t think Urijah is any different, I think Urijah has definitely always has that ability  to win like anybody at the level, there is always that chance, but I really think Urijah’s home should be 135lb. We’ll see how he does against Brown the second time, but if he doesn’t beat him the second time then he’s got him in a situation where he doesn’t have any where to go. Mike Brown, I trained with him out at American Top Team and he’s a dangerous guy, I fought him smart I didn’t let him hit me. If I would have let him hit me with those little gloves I would have been laying on my back like those other two guys. He is just dangerous like that and he is a strong guy, a strong wrestler, he holds his weight really well, he’s smart, and experienced and he is going to be hard to beat for anyone at that weight class.

PRO MMA: Now a few weeks back the MMA community lost a very important part in Charles “Mask” Lewis, how close were you to him?
Curran: Ten years ago he gave me my first pair of shorts. We had a good I would say acquaintance early on a good friendship, we weren’t buddies or anything like that, but I was one of the first people he thought of when it came down to filming the Tapout series. He was sponsoring me at the time and everything was good and we were all getting a little closer. He was having dinner in my house, staying in my home town, and watching us train in my gym, and I was spending a lot of time with him on the road and during the filming of the first season and then the second season. You know its a shame, he was a good friend of mine, I wouldn’t say we were best buddies and going and hanging out and watching movies and stuff like that but I definitely held him on a high stool with me and we were close and the guy would do anything for me, just one of those guys. Now that he is not around, fortunately he has left such a legacy and image of himself behind with the Tapout company and their brand that I think that he will forever be remembered, I mean he is just a creative and amazing individual I guess you could say.

PRO MMA: Jeff now the name “The Big Frog” where did that come from?
Curran: The very first time I was called “The Big Frog” was in Portuguese. I was being called “Sapão” for a while back from Pedro Sauers nephew and another black belt. These guys were calling me “Sapão” while I was training and warming up and training with guys and just because I had a frog tattoo on my back and they thought I looked like a frog when I trained so it kinda started as a little joke. I was a purple belt at the time, then it became kind of like when we hang out that’s what they called me. I didn’t even know for a while what it was until I asked and then they told me. Then I really didn’t feel right telling people that my name was “Sapão” because I’m not Brazilian and I don’t speak Portuguese so when people ask me my nickname, I say the only nickname I really have ever been given was “The Big Frog” and years later I embraced it. Now here I am “The Big Frog.”

PRO MMA: How exactly did you get your start into MMA? Was it wrestling? Or did you just go straight into jiu-jitsu? How exactly did you get started ?
Curran: I think it’s important to know that as a kid I was 4 or 5 years old in a karate class. I was fighting my brother and his older friends at a young age. I was an aggressive kid and very competitive since I was born. When I was about 15 years old I had already had some wrestling background, I had years of karate training, I had some boxing training from my grandpa and ya’ know I was always involved in some kind of fight sport. When I was 15 years old my friend led me to a jiu-jitsu class at a local karate school. I had one class on a Wednesday and on the next Wednesday class I got a flier for a seminar, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar for like three days in Indiana. I went to that seminar and spent three days training and immediately just fell in love with jiu-jitsu and I started traveling, at 15 or 16 years old I started traveling around the country learning jiu-jitsu from anywhere I could go. Spending time at the academy and eventually Royce Gracie fought in the UFC the very first one and I was sold, I wanted to be him. I didn’t want the money, he was winning $60,000 not a big deal, I didn’t think I would ever win that type of money in a fight. I was thinking more like the look in his eye and the feeling that representing jiu-jitsu that became such a big part of my life and changed my outlook of where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

PRO MMA: Just a quick get to know ya’ for the fans, what’s your favorite food?
Curran: This is the worst question for me right now on my diet, everything sounds good. I would say that if I could eat one thing for the rest of my life it would probably be ice cream.

PRO MMA: What about favorite movie?
Curran: I have to go back in time and say Old School.

PRO MMA: What is the number one thing on your i-pod that you wouldn’t want people know your listening to?
Curran: You know what, what about a Leanne Womack album, that’s something most fighters don’t have but I actually train to that so.

PRO MMA: Jeff, thank you. Once again, this is Tim Thompson with promma.info (PRO MMA) here with Jeff “The Big Frog” Curran. Jeff is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to before we let you go?
Curran: I want to thank all my sponsors in general, they can be seen at suckerpunchent.com this is the website that’s hosting my daily video blog leading up to the fight. I’m keeping in touch with all my fans that way. Just a shout out to my sponsors , my family, my wife Sara for putting up with all that this is and all it’s become and my staff at my gym and my manager Monte Cox. Thank everybody for all their on going support and making this kind of lifestyle possible for me.

PRO MMA: Well Jeff once again the best of luck to you I know you will do great next weekend. Hopefully I will see you there, it’s my birthday on Saturday so pull out a victory for me will ya’?
Curran: Happy Birthday man, I’ll see ya’.

We will be providing live play by play updates of WEC 40: TORRES vs. MIZUGAKI which airs live on VERSUS this Sunday night, April 5th, beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Stick with PRO MMA (promma.info) for all your MMA and WEC coverage.

By: Tim Thompson

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