Daniel Weichel figured he'd be fighting Pat Curran after winning the Bellator season 10 featherweight tournament last May. Of course, he also figured Curran would be the champion when the fight went down.
That no longer is the case. Curran lost the belt to Patricio Freire last September and Weichel's tournament victory didn't guarantee him a title shot since Bellator has a new regime, led by president Scott Coker.
Still, Weichel is happy with the opportunity he is getting against Curran at Bellator 133 on Friday night in Fresno, Calif. This is by far the biggest fight of his busy 13-year career.
"I'm very happy that I'm fighting Pat Curran, because he achieved so much in Bellator and has a very good reputation," Weichel told MMAFighting.com. "I respect him for that a lot. My overall goal is to get the belt and for that goal I have to beat the best fighters in the world. And that is Pat at the moment."
Weichel (34-8), who hails from Germany, has been quite the workhouse in his career and has earned victories over the likes of UFC veteran Dennis Siver and former Bellator tournament winner Frodo Khasbulaev. He has also faced names like Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Thiago Tavares.
Most of those bouts came in his younger days. For the last six years or so, Weichel has transitioned from a guy willing to fight whenever and wherever regardless of purse to someone who viewed MMA more like a career. The turning point was signing with manager/trainer Niels Schlaegel and MMA Spirit in Frankfurt.
"Before I always loved the sport," Weichel said. "I just wanted to fight no matter who it is, no matter when it is, no matter how much I get paid. Now, I feel I know what it is to be a professional mixed martial artist. You have to train like that. You have to carry yourself like that. This is an important thing. If you have no professional surroundings, no professional team, sooner or later you will stop winning. You won't get to where you want to go."
Though he has two careers worth of fights on his record, Weichel is still only 30 years old. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist has won six in a row, including five by submission. In his native Germany, the ground game is not understood as well as striking is, but Weichel might be the guy to change that. Now with Bellator and closing in on a title shot, "The Weasel" is starting to receive some attention in his home country, which has a burgeoning MMA scene.
"They're starting to get interested," said Weichel, who finished Desmond Green via rear-naked choke in the tourney finals at Bellator 119 on May 9. "It's a good thing to inspire people to start the sport."
He has a chance to do plenty of that Friday. Curran is a two-time Bellator featherweight champion. Though coming off a loss to Freire, Curran is still regarded as one of the top 145-pound fighters on the planet. Coker has already said Georgi Karakhanyan, who is coming off an impressive first-round submission win over Bubba Jenkins last month, will get the next title shot. But Weichel would put himself in that conversation if he beats Curran.
"I don't know if I can change his mind, but I definitely can make an impression and prove my value for the company," Weichel said. "I want to go there and fight in exciting fashion, and I want to win in exciting fashion. I come there to finish the fight, and I want to give a war that people remember and then remember me."