It’s a cliché we’ve heard countless times, from countless people. But that doesn’t make it any less truthful.
The mental prowess of a fighter can make or break not only their next fight, but their entire career. And it’s not just confidence that I’m speaking of; you have to be able to get through training while keeping your love for the sport… you have to walk out in front of thousands of people (and millions behind that camera, which is 2 feet in front of your face) without losing your resolve… you must have confidence, when the cage you’re standing in locks shut, and there is a man in front of you, who’s spent most of his life practicing techniques that will allow him to remove you from your consciousness… In other words, the fight game is 90% mental, people.
And no one knows that better than Pat Curran.
Two years ago this month, Pat Curran was realizing his dreams. He was battering a helpless Joe Warren against the cage in the most brutal of fashions, before the ref finally pulled him off of the featherweight champion. With that final barrage of punches, Pat had won the belt, realized a life-long goal, and was clearly on cloud nine.
Today, things are different.
Curran is no longer wearing the strap he fought so valiantly to capture, losing the belt to Daniel Straus at the end of 2013. But it wasn’t the fact that he lost, that makes his mental state the focal point of this article. Rather, it was the way he lost: he looked lethargic… uncaring… almost indifferent to whether he kept his belt, or found himself back in line for another shot.
MMAFighting.com caught up with Pat Curran, and as it turns out, that’s exactly how he felt, as he listlessly fought to defend the belt he worked so hard to obtain.
“More than the fight in general, it was my personal life leading up to the fight, which I was able to take care of and get sorted out,” he told MMA Fighting. “To sum it, I suffer from severe depression and anxiety issues. I’ve been dealing with this for a long time, but I was recently able to find this out what it was and address it. I’ve been seeing a doctor, and I got the right medication. And since I sought help and took the steps to change that, I’ve become a new person. I’ve completely changed my world, and I’m feeling great right now.”
Curran has been dealing with depression for quite some time, which has caused him to seek professional help in the form of a sports psychologist. And while the subject of your own mental status can be a very personal matter, he doesn’t mind speaking about his ailments if it could help another fighter in the same position.
“We get hit in the head, which is known to cause depression, and I’m sure I’m not the only one with this issue,” he says. “I’m sure there are other fighters with this issue, but I have no problem talking about it if it’s going to help other fighters in my situation.”
And what of the unmotivated battle with Straus? Turns out that – while he looked as though he could not care less about losing his championship – the loss almost spelled the end of Curran’s fighting career.
“It really put me in a dark hole,” he says. “I was depressed before then, but that just put me at an all-time low. I was ready to pack up my stuff in Illinois and move back in with my parents and search for a new career. I was ready to give up everything. Even well before that fight I had that same mentality. Not having fun…just wishing I wasn’t doing this anymore…feeling like I just don’t want to be a fighter anymore.
“I remember saying that to a couple of my friends, and they would say, ‘why are you telling me this? You should be wanting to kill this guy right now, what’s wrong with you?’ But that was just my mindset going into that fight. It just really came down to anxiety and depression. It was really affecting my life.”
But now, things are changing for the ex-champ. As he heads into the final act of his trilogy with Straus tonight at Bellator 112, black skies have turned to blue, and Curran can spot that ninth cloud he had once rode on, inching itself a little closer each day.
“It’s been a rough road for sure, but I want to say the last month since we got the rematch and I signed the contract it’s been great,” he says. “I feel like a completely new person right now. I’m more motivated than ever, and I have this fire inside of me that I just want to get that title back. I just want to get that loss off my mind. That loss is really bothering me. It’s just the fact that I knew that wasn’t me. That wasn’t the Pat Curran that everybody was used to seeing, that drives me nuts.”
Perhaps its fate, but Curran will have his chance at redemption at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana… the same venue that watched him capture gold for the first time, two years ago. But no matter how this chapter ends, it looks like Curran’s story will have a happy ending. And it’s an ending that’s much farther away than it was, just a few months ago.Bellator, Bellator 112, Daniel Straus, featherweight, Joe Warren, MMA NEWS, Pat Curran