Pat Curran is a work-in-progress.
While that may sound strange since the Bellator featherweight champion has been on a dominant run, winning all six of his showings since committing to 145 pounds, he believes he is just now starting to come into his own as a mixed martial artist.
That said, "Paddy Mike's" skill set has proved more than capable over this stretch, as he has closed out four of the six showings in impressive, even brutal fashion. His vicious knockout over Joe Warren at Bellator 60 made video game finishes look routine, as he leveled the "Baddest Man on the Planet" with ice-cold precision.
"I like to pace myself and conserve a lot of energy," Curran told Bleacher Report about his killer instinct. "I wait for the openings, hit you hard when I can, and when I see I have you hurt, that's when I turn it up. That's when I go for the finish because you have to capitalize on your opponents' weaknesses. When they are hurt, that's when they are the most vulnerable, and you have to jump on it. That is something that comes over time.
"I have a lot of experience in the cage, and my coaches have helped me a lot. It came down to reviewing a lot of my fights...especially the ones earlier in my career. I would have the guy hurt but not jump on it like I should have. I had to recognize those little things, put in the work and over time I've become the fighter I am now. But I'm still developing and I still have weaknesses in my game I'm trying to fix. I just want to become a better fighter."
In addition to his winning streak and title reign, the Florida-to-Chicago transplant has also managed to accomplish one of the most difficult tasks in the current era of MMA. He has gained recognition for being one of the world's best in his weight class despite not fighting under the UFC banner. Granted, comparing the two organizations usually leads to tense turns and awkward silence, but the 26-year-old Curran doesn't concern himself with those matters.
In fact, anything regarding subject matter outside of the cage, Curran takes in stride. He understands the interviews and questions are all part of the job, and it's one he's happy to do.
"Over time I'm getting used to it, especially as things grow popularity-wise for me," Curran said. "At the beginning, you start with a couple of interviews and it just kind of grows. I've been doing this for some time now and I'm definitely getting used to it because it comes with the job and is part of the sport. It doesn't bother me at all. I'm still focused on my training and have my upcoming fight locked in my mind. As long as there are no distractions, I'm going to go out there and put on a great show for everybody."
His sights are fixed on the next fight ahead, which provides another opportunity to forge the hard work he's invested into another entertaining performance. Of course, a victory in whatever fashion it comes is the icing on the cake, but his main focus is pushing everything forward.
He has a simple way of looking at what can be considered complex issues, but that is the beauty in the essence of the man who holds a grasp on Bellator's 145-pound strap. The time and effort put in will translate into success inside the cage. The formula has yielded impressive results thus far, and Curran sees no reason to switch it up, especially since the promotion is keeping him on high gear.
"I'm a young fighter, and this is my time right now," Curran said. "There is a very short time frame in MMA. I have to do the best I can and fight as much as I can while I'm young where I can recover quickly from injuries and after fights. I want to knock out as many fights as possible, and Bellator has been giving me that opportunity.
"They are putting on a lot of tournaments, and there are already two guys waiting to fight me right now. Then there is a another tournament already going on, so I'm pretty much set for the next couple of years as long as I keep winning and hold onto the title."
While Curran's profile is steadily rising, the Chicagoland-based fighter is already an established star for the promotion he champions. When Bellator 85 kicked off its first event under the Spike TV partnership, Curran was a major player on the card and validated that decision with an exciting performance.
Therefore he was an easy option to select when the Los Angeles-based organization made the turn into pay-per-view waters, which it will do for the first time on Nov. 2. The reigning 145-pound champion will face Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus on the card, and Curran is happy to be someone whom Bellator can turn to for excitement.
"I'm very honored to be a part of it," Curran said. "Honestly, I'm proud to be a part of Bellator as a whole and being a part of it pretty much every step of the way. But I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I want to go out there and do my best and perform my best in every one of my fights. Even though this is a big step with Bellator rolling and having their first pay-per-view event with Rampage and Tito Ortiz as the headlining fight, I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. I'm going to go out there just like it's any other fight and fight my heart out."
In the matchup with Straus, he knows full well what he's getting into. The two men squared off in 2009, with Curran claiming the victory by knockout in the second round. Yet, he is also aware that Straus has elevated his game in the years since their first dustup, and he is eager to test himself against the newest version of Straus.
But in the same turn, he knows the fight will be the first action that Straus will see in over a year. A broken hand and a traffic stop that lead to several drug-related charges kept the 29-year-old on the sidelines for an extended amount of time.
Even with that being the case, Curran is expecting the very best out of Straus, and he's prepared for anything the tournament winner can throw his way.
"A year off is a long time for a fighter," Curran said. "There could be ring rust, but there might not be. It's really hard to say, and it's not something I'm going to bet on. I'm ready for him to be sharper than he was in his last fight. He's obviously hungrier, and he definitely wants to beat me and redeem his loss against me. He wants to become a champion, and he's going to come as hard as he can and do the best he can to beat me.
"Every time I step in there, I'm going in to fight my heart out and put on a great show. With the styles Straus and I bring, the matchup is going to make for a great fight. We are both very explosive, very talented fighters and our styles match up perfectly. It's definitely going to be a fight the fans want to watch."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.