Note: This is an interview I did with Bellator’s Curtis Millender for MMA Latest News
Although you never get a second chance to make a first impression, fighters who lost their promotional debut get an opportunity at redemption. Welterweight prospect Curtis “Curtious” Millender (7-1 MMA, 0-1 Bellator) will do just that when he faces seasoned veteran Fernando Gonzalez at Bellator 137, May 15, at Pechanga Resort and Casino at Temecula, Calif.
Millender lost his Bellator debut against Brennan Ward back in February. He was originally scheduled to fight British fighter Michael Page, who withdrew from the fight on short notice.
Millender took some time out of his schedule to speak with MMA Latest News’ Al Stover.
Al Stover: Hello Curtis how’s everything going?
Curtis Millender: I’m good how are you?
AS: I’m good, it’s the weekend. You have a big fight coming up against Fernando Gonzalez at Bellator 137. How’s camp going for you?
CM: Camp is going great. I feel like I’m in great shape and working on all of the things I need to work on and making sure that I have the tools I have are very sharp.
AS: I know some fighters don’t like to divulge training stuff before hand, but what are some of those tools you are fine tuning and sharpening.
CM: I’m just making sure my punches are crisp and that I’m not making the same mistakes as last time. I’m sharpening my angles and putting together my punches a little bit.
AS: Let’s go back a little bit. You’ve been fighting for a couple of years now. What got you interesting in pursuing mixed martial arts.
CM: I’ve been boxing and wrestling since I was a kid. Growing up watching wrestling, boxing and all of these combat sports. I knew it was something I wanted to do. I really just want to be the best in the world and fighting is what I am pursuing in being the best in the world in.
AS: Right on and when you say wrestling, were a fan of professional wrestling? Amateur? A little of both?
CM: Both. I was a huge WWE fan and still am.
AS: I am too. Some MMA fans they want to keep wrestling and mixed martial arts seperate but what I’ve noticed is a lot of fighters are big pro wrestling fans. You won your first seven fights. You got to make your Bellator debut. It didn’t quite go as planned but what was it like making to such a big stage so early in your career?
CM: It was a blessing and I took it as that I knew I had worked hard to get where I was. I’ve been a pro for two years but I’ve been boxing and wrestling since I was eight years old — almost 20 years. This is something I’ve been working my whole life for. I put the work in and I got a level to where I wanted to be faster than most, but that’s only because of my work ethic.
AS: Work ethic goes really far in anything, not just in athletics but life in general. Your Bellator debut had a chance in plans. You were supposed to fight Michael Page then fought Brennan Ward. Did the change force you to adjust your game plan too much?
CM: Not too much. I’m a professional. I’ve fought guys in my first seven fights with the same modus operandi. They want to take me down. I did underestimate Ward’s speed, not his hand speed but his foot speed. He’s explosive coming off the block, I kind of underestimated that. He caught me making a mistake and capitalized on it so my hat’s off to him. He was the better man that night but I’m going to keep winning these fights and hopefully get a shot back at him. Right now my focus is on Fernando Gonzalez.
AS: Some guys like to watch film on their opponents. Fernando has a lot of experience under his belt. Are you doing anything specific to prepare for him?
CM: I have guys that I train with that have a similar style as he does. I watch a lot of video and have done a lot of studying. You can’t always go off of what you see on video because the guys he’s fighting aren’t like me. It’s going to be an adjustment for the both of us. Come May 15, I’m gonna show why I have this contract, why I’m fighting for Bellator and I’m going to be one of the best in the world.
AS: Especially in a division that’s had a changing of the guard. Douglas Lima is the champion. You’ve talked about avenging your loss down the road but is there anyone else you have on the radar.
CM: I still want to fight Michael Page. That’s still on my mind. I would love to have him next after Fernando. But whatever Bellator gives me, I’m down for. Losing was one of the worst things I’ve felt and never want to feel that again. Good luck to everyone else in the division, they’re going to need it.
AS: I just remembered this. You’ve fought in a ring and in a cage. Some fighters like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko have talked about the difficult adjusting from fighting in a ring to a cage but what has been your experience? You’ve probably trained a lot in a cage though.
CM: There wasn’t much of a difference. I like to be in the center of the mat whether it’s in the cage or the ring. It doesn’t really bother me. Actually I prefer to fight in a cage. I have more room to move, I can circle more and I don’t have to back into a corner. I like it better.
AS: What are some of the things you’ve learned in the last couple of years.
CM: Just to stay humble and work hard. Those are things my coaches make sure I know. It can all go away in a moment. Stay humble, stay focused and move forward. Keep your eye on the prize. I have a family to take care of and I have to make sure that I’m doing the right thing and win these fights.
AS: You said you’re a huge fan of WWE. Many athletes go back and forth between MMA and professional wrestling. Any chance of seeing you in the squared circle down the road?
CM: That would be dope. I would love that, and get in there. Wrestling in the WWE would be fun and another one of those childhood dreams I’ve accomplished.
AS: Thank you Curtis. Is there anyone you want to thank or give a shoutout to?
CM: I want to thank my team. Today was the last day at Reign Training Center. We closed up shop today. Everyone at the Reign Training Center. Mark Munoz, I want to thank him for all of the time and effort he’s put into the gym so we all have somewhere he’s train. The NOC Fight Team, Coach Billy, Mike Harris, all of my sponsors and everybody.