Contender Series’s Chris Curtis: An Opportunity Long Overdue
It’s of the popular opinion. Chris Curtis (18-5) should have been in the UFC long ago.
For reasons unbeknownst to most in the MMA sphere, the UFC was inexplicably uninterested in the four promotion champion– until now.
The Californian took regional scenes all over the United States by storm, dominating their divisions and defeating their champions. Even when it looked like he’d never get his shot, Curtis kept on moving forward. It wasn’t easy, but he kept his eye on the prize, faith in his abilities, and his trust in others. Still, time passed and the call didn’t come.
“It [was] frustrating to see 3-0 guys or 3-1 guys get signed to the UFC,” explained Curtis. “It gets heartbreaking after a while. Like, are you kidding me? You’ve got three fights and I’ve spent the last decade of my life grinding for this. It got to the point a few times where I didn’t even know if I wanted this anymore. I was honestly very, very close to walking away before I got the shot.”
Times became especially tough when Curtis was robbed of a clear-cut decision victory at CES 34.
“I beat [Nah-shon] Burrell again and he’s handed a very weird decision that nobody understands,” recalled Curtis in an interview with MMA Today. “He and his team didn’t even understand it.”
It was at this point in Curtis’s career when he received great help and support from one of his best friends and mentors, Smile’N Sam Alvey.
“[The Burrell decision] really hurt man because I had a lot of forward momentum,” said Curtis. “That just kind of cut my legs out from under me. Sam convinced me to just keep going forward.”
Following his successful title defense at CES 49, Curtis finally secured a UFC opportunity in the form of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Curtis will be taking on fellow New England regional champion Sean Lally in the season premier’s co-main event.
Curtis is familiar with his fight night foe. The two combatants are “Facebook friends” and have many mutual friends, connections, and acquaintances in real life as well.
“I consider myself the big fish in New England and he’s the small fish,” explained Curtis. “He’s a good dude. His name was brought up a few times, but things never really materialized for whatever reason. We’re Facebook friends and we’ve talked. There’s no bad blood or anything, but we’re the two big dogs in New England. I happen to be the bigger, meaner dog.”
Stylistically, Curtis knows what to expect from Lally. He respects the good old “puncher’s chance,” but outside of that isn’t too concerned with anything Lally presents.
“He’s a big, tough guy, but I don’t think he’s the most technically sound guy out there,” explained Curtis. “He comes to fight which is great, but that style only goes so far. At the end of the day, I’m the best guy he’s ever fought. He’s not the best guy I’ve ever fought.”
“It’s a big step up for him,” continued Curtis. “He’s really going to have to make some adjustments. He’s not going to just be able to come out there and throw a big right hand and knock me out. More skilled people have tried and failed to do that. Honestly, I’ve spent every day for the last ten years doing this. I appreciate the work he’s put in for this, but you’re not going to catch up on ten years of work in two months.”
The idea of fighting in front of Dana White doesn’t faze Curtis or even make him the slightest bit nervous. It actually, acts in a contrary manner.
“I won’t feel anything at all,” said Curtis, candidly. “I’ve been fighting long enough to know anytime I’ve gone out looking to knock a guy out, it doesn’t work. When I go out there and I’m relaxed and putting a show on, people get beat up. In my head, I know I’m going to win. Part of performing is not putting that pressure.”
The 30-year-old, 23-fight veteran has gone as far as to envision as specific finishing sequence:
“In my head, I’m going with a second round body shot knockout.”
“It’s weird looking back on it. I never thought that Dan Henderson would be one of my coaches. I live with Sam [Alvey]. He’s like a big brother for me and has helped me elevate myself to the next level. I have a ton of other great teammates like Sean Strickland. The amount of people around me who not only want me to succeed, but I want to see succeed as well, it’s just phenomenal. It’s something I couldn’t see back home. It’s a game changer.
Thank you to my biggest sponsors Jordan Griffin and Jordan Schultz. These two guys have really helped pay for me to be able to train full time. They’ve been the greatest guys ever. A big thanks to Sam and everyone at the gym, McKey Sullivan, Sean Strickland, and Emma Seymour for being the housemom. You fight by yourself, but you can’t get to this level without a lot of people behind you.” – The Action Man
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