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Monday, 09/19/2011, 09:09 am

Jeff Curran on his return to the UFC: "Here I am, and I am here to stay."


The Big Frog” is back. Jeff Curran, after a seven-year absence from the promotion, is back in the UFC, and he doesn’t plan on leaving again. Curran recently signed a brand-new agreement with the world’s biggest MMA promotion, and will face former title challenger Scott Jorgensen in a bantamweight bout at UFC 137 in Las Vegas. He last competed in the organization in January of 2004, when he took a fight with future UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Serra on nine days’ notice as a late replacement, losing a decision in the process. Since that time, Curran has hopped all over the globe, fighting in promotions such as Pride, King of the Cage, the WEC, the XFO, Strikeforce…they’ve all played host to “The Big Frog.”

Now, he’s back home where he belongs.

“This means the world to me,” states “The Big Frog. “It is a testament to myself more than anyone else of what I am made of. I wasn’t brought in to be filler for the next big thing, or as a publicity stunt. I earned it. I literally fought my way back to UFC…through physical, emotional, mental, and financial battles.

“Here I am, and I am here to stay.”

Every MMA fighter’s dream is to make it to the UFC. Only the best make it. Curran, fighting above his natural fighting weight of 135 lbs. for years due to the lack of lighter weight classes at the time, earned his spot with the promotion in 2004, before the big boom that MMA and the UFC has enjoyed commenced. And what a journey it’s been for Jeff.

“Since the Matt Serra fight, I have had the awesome experience of competing all over the world. From Canada to Japan to the States, shows like King of the Cage, the XFO, the IFL, Japan’s ZST, and many others paved my way to the WEC. Since being released from the WEC a couple of years ago, I have had fights with promotions such as Strikeforce, Bellator, and the XFO. This journey has been one of the most mentally-demanding experiences of my life, and physical, all at the same time. It almost got the best of me, and I even considered retirement at times, which lasted about five minutes at the most (laughs).”

After leaving the UFC, Curran went 14-1 to earn an invitation to the place seen as the mecca for lighter fighters, and the UFC’s sister promotion, at that time, the WEC. “The Big Frog,” in his first fight for the promotion since WEC 4, was tested right away, taking on tough youngster Stephen Ledbetter in his re-debut with the promotion. After garnering the victory, Curran endured a virtual “murderer’s row” of opponents in Urijah Faber, Mike Thomas Brown, Joseph Benavidez, and Takeya Mizugaki. Despite only being finished in the Faber fight, and many feeling he won the Mizugaki bout, Curran was released from the WEC following that stretch of opponents.

“After beating Stephen Ledbetter, I had won fifteen of sixteen fights, so I think facing top guys like that all in a row was a detriment to my career because I was the best. It didn’t get much better than what I had accomplished at that point. The loss to Urijah was most painful. I had that fight won, but a bad grip at one point, or bad movement, more or less put me in a losing position, forcing me to make a desperate move to save the round. This is where the rest of my career went downhill.

“But I’d like for people to understand that losing at the very top levels doesn’t cut it for me. ‘Almost,’ as I was taught years ago, doesn’t count. It’s not a game of horseshoes. But rather than come up for air and rethink our strategy, I went off the handle and insisted on fighting more top-level contenders rather than gain my momentum once again.”

This approach earned Curran a lot of respect amongst fight fans and MMA insiders, but also cost “The Big Frog” his place in the WEC. After his exodus from the promotion, he really began to focus on his gym and fight team, Curran Martial Arts. There, Curran has trained fighters such as Bart Palaszewski, Jens Pulver, Felice Herrig, and his cousin, Pat Curran, who has won both of Bellator’s recent lightweight and featherweight tourneys. With a growing stable of successful fighters, Jeff’s career has grown from fighter exclusively to a hybrid fighter/teacher, as well.

“I love teaching, as long as I don’t feel my knowledge is being chewed up and [spit] out. If it’s being absorbed and taken in, and used for the long term, I love it. I just hate teaching those who don’t take learning serious, be it fighters or students. Guys like Bart, Pat etc…they take it all in, and always have. They are my inspiration still.”

Part of Jeff’s journey has also been personal. Always known as a serious, focused competitor, he wants the fans to know that there’s more to him than what they see in the Octagon.

“People close to me get the ‘person’ that I really am. In the gym and in training, I am focused. In the ring, the cage, I have a job to do. But I love being with my family, having fun, and enjoying life. I just don’t get enough time to do that which is where my ‘serious’ attitude comes off (laughs).”

They say, in life, sometimes all you can do is smile. After facing and conquering all the ups and downs that come along with being a professional fighter, Jeff Curran has earned the right to be happy. And nothing will make him happier than leaving the Octagon with his hand raised in victory at UFC 137 on October 29th in Las Vegas.

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