Daniel Straus puts tough times behind as he prepares for Pat Curran fight

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- As sweat dripped through his dreadlocks after a spirited workout on Thursday, Daniel Straus declared himself a happy man.

"Fight week is awesome," the American Top Team fighter said. "I live for this s---. I love to compete."

Straus, who challenges Pat Curran for the Bellator featherweight title on Saturday's main card at Long Beach Arena, hasn't fought for more than a year.

"To be out for so long, it sucks. To know that you're supposed to be doing one thing, .... I've been waiting and itching for my time to fight."

The Cincinnati native has been out of action, but that doesn't mean he's been out of the headlines. In a tumultuous late-winter span, Straus first had to pull out of the originally planned April 4 date against Curran due to a broken hand suffered in training. Then he was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and charged with driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana, synthetic cannabis, and ecstasy.

The 29-year old Straus eventually reached a plea deal in order to receive probation and stay out of prison.

The way Straus sees it, the adversity he faced this year will only make him stronger as he goes to meet Curran.

"I just rolled with the punches," Straus said. "My hand held up through rehab, I dealt with my issues and kept pursuing my dream I'm here for. I'm here to be a world champion. Ups and downs don't bother me, ins and out don't bother me."

What did bother him, though, was the way his arrest was portrayed.

"It wasn't me just in the car," Straus said. "It didn't come out in the media because nobody knew that. So they didn't know it wasn't solely me. But that wasn't how it came out. It was heartbreaking to see how it did come out and how people portrayed it. I kind of took offense to the fact that no one came to me and asked me my side. Everyone just wanted to run and report what they read somewhere else. No one ever came and got it out of my mouth. That was heartbreaking."

With his troubles just about in his rear-view mirror, Straus can focus on his bout with Curran. This is a rematch of a 2009 match in Illinois contested in the XFO promotion, won by Curran on a second-round knockout.

Straus views the loss as the most important learning experience of his career. Since that time, he's won 17 of 18 fights.

"I can't go to that fight, examine that fight, and try to fight him again off that fight," Straus said. "I'll lose, again. Pat can't watch that fight, examine that fight, and fight me again. He'll take the ass-whipping I got that night. We're both two different fighters from the time I first met. We've grown as people, we've grown as fighters."

In fact, he feels so much has changed since that time, there's almost no point in going back and looking at the tape of the first fight.

"It really opened my eyes as to the sport. Since that fight, I've won 17 of 18 fights. I went on a two-year winning streak of 12 fights. That fight changed me because going into that fight I knew I could beat Pat. And I got beat. So I started taking this sport seriously."

Curran, meanwhile, returned the sentiment.

"He's so much better, so much more of a complete fighter than he was for our first fight," Curran said Thursday. "I'm better, he's better, I'm looking at this like a brand-new challenge, not like a rematch."

Win or lose, Straus is just glad he's back doing what he loves.

"I love this sport, it's been good to me," Straus said. "Being an athlete's been good to me. Sports have always been my savior. I've always been in and out of this, in and out of that, but I've always come back to sports. It's good. I don't want to be that guy that's losing 12 in a row and fighting for a paycheck."

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