There were gripes from early Bellator champions that there wasn't enough to do between title defenses – and that what there was to do wasn't particularly attractive.
As the promotion's tournament schedule has picked up, however, the days of long waits and dubious non-title fights may be numbered.
Bellator featherweight Pat Curran (17-4 MMA, 7-1 BFC) now has two title defenses lined up. First, he headlines Bellator 73 opposite season-four tourney champ Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (17-1 MMA, 5-1 BFC). If he's successful, he meets season-six tourney winner Daniel Straus (20-4 MMA, 6-1 BFC) this fall.
"The 145-pound division is stacked," Curran told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "I could get two more fights in before the new year if I wanted to."
His first title defense is around the corner. Harrah's Tunica Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Miss., hosts Bellator 73 on Aug. 24.
"Pitbull" Freire has to be chomping at the bit to fight Curran. The Brazilian hasn't fought since he beat Straus to clinch the season-four competition more than a year ago. Curran, however, is coming off a vicious knockout of Joe Warren that earned him the Bellator title.
"He had a very dominating performance," Curran said of Freire. "He's a very explosive striker, and he has great finishes. Our styles match up well. Honestly, I think it's going to be one of the best fights of the year."
Curran, whose cousin is longtime big-show vet Jeff Curran, expects a striking-heavy fight when they meet.
"He wants to look for that big, looping shot, and I'm more about keeping my hands up and throwing straight punches," he said. "We both look for finishes."
Helping Curran in the boxing game is Doug Mango, who works out of his cousin's gym in Crystal Lake, Ill. Under Mango's tutelage, he's gone from a wrestler with one overhand right in his arsenal to a crisp, technical striker. That's added to the wrestling skills that brought him into MMA.
"He's almost like a father to me," Curran said of Mango. "He's known me from the beginning, so he knows my strengths and weaknesses, and he's able to fix anything he wants."
That wasn't the case when he fought Straus in his early career, which began in 2008 at the urging of his cousin and prompted him to give up surfing in South Florida for the cold Midwest. However, the second-round knockout he earned in the second round was the first indication he was on the right path.
"Oh yeah, that was my first knockout," Curran said. "I won't forget. It was a big overhand right, and he dropped. It's like the wrestler's punch."
Curran has more tools now, but he cautions that Straus does as well.
"He's a completely different fighter now," Curran said. "He's evolved. I don't like to look past 'Pitbull,' but if it does come down to Straus, that's going to be a tough fight."
But the good news is that Curran is fighting, and fighting a lot. Should he manage to beat Freire and Straus, and pack in two more fights this year, he would have five fights on the year. And for a 24-year-old fighter, you can't ask for more.