Bellator’s tournament king returns Friday night, seeking the featherweight title in front of his hometown fans.
Crystal Lake’s Pat Curran has done better than any other mixed martial artist in Bellator’s tournament format by winning the 2010 lightweight tournament and last summer’s featherweight tourney.
By winning the featherweight tournament, Curran (16-4, 6-1 Bellator) earned a title shot against champion Joe Warren (7-2, 6-1 Bellator), the former Michigan wrestler. They’ll headline Bellator 60 at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. The first of an 11-fight card begins at 6 p.m. and will be streamed at Spike.com. The main card starts at 7 and will air on MTV2.
Curran, who two years ago entered the lightweight tournament as an alternate and has run through the competition in a series of upsets, enters the fight in an unusual position – the favorite against the champion. He said that doesn’t really bother him, but he’d prefer the underdog role.
“I’ll put on the best performance that I can,” he said. “It’s nice going into this fight not having the stress of proving myself to everybody. I always think I’m going to win.”
Warren makes his first title defense after winning a catchweight bout, then suffering a first-round knockout loss in Bellator’s bantamweight tournament.
He has looked dominant in the 145-pound featherweight division and hasn’t lost as a featherweight since October 2009. His wrestling background – he has placed first at the Pan American Games and the world championships – makes him a formidable opponent.
“Warren has a huge heart and is a cardio machine,” Curran said. “It seems he doesn’t tire. I know he’ll bring a high pace. It’s really physical when a guy wants to wrestle you the whole time. He can easily wear me out.”
This is Bellator’s sixth season premiere, with fight cards airing weekly at 8 p.m. Friday on MTV2. The promotion has expanded and built up its talent pool. Bellator will hold five concurrent tournaments: bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight.
The Chicago-based MMA promotion returns to the area for the first time since Bellator 26 on Aug. 19, 2010, at the Chicago Theatre. Curran, who trains with Team Curran at his cousin Jeff’s Crystal Lake gym, is pleased to have the arena full of his fans.
“I don’t want to let all my friends and family and fans down,” he said. “I have the [advantage] of going into this fight very confident. And confidence goes a long way.”
Hooks and jabs
Four featherweight quarterfinals will round out the main card. … Also, former UFC fighter Shamar Bailey, a Chicago native, makes his Bellator debut against Josh Shockley in a 165-pound catchweight fight. … Another Team Curran fighter, Cory Galloway, will face bantamweight Jake Nauracy. Tickets, which start at $42, are still available at (800) 745-3000.
â—† Changes are afoot for the 15th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Before this season, ‘‘TUF” was shot weeks before, edited and aired at a later time. Now the events will occur during the same week and feature live fights at 8 p.m. on Fridays on their new TV home, FX. This season will feature 16 lightweights and welterweights coached by UFC bantamweights Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz.