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Pat Curran discusses being the final sparring partner of the late Jordan Parsons

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

He was there one day and just like that he was gone.

That's how Pat Curran strains to remember the tragic death of teammate Jordan Parsons.

Curran, a Bellator MMA featherweight, was the last person to ever spar with Parsons on April 30 at the Blackzilians gym in Boca Raton, Fla. Hours later, in the early morning of May 1, Parsons was struck by an SUV and critically injured. The Bellator prospect died three days later.

"When I found out the news, I was just like, 'There's no way,'" Curran said. "It's unreal. I couldn't believe it. He was just there a couple days ago. It's a very sad and unfortunate thing. I really feel bad for his family and everybody that was close to him."

Curran had only known Parsons for a couple of weeks after Curran left his training camp in Illinois to come to the Blackzilians. But the two, similar in size, were put together as partners often in that short amount of time.

"He always had a smile on his face," Curran said. "He was always joking around. Always very positive. Very talented and a work ethic to match that. He was definitely going places in this sport. You could tell this was his life. He was passionate about it and loved it. Overall, he was a great person."

Times have been difficult in the days and now weeks since the incident, especially for Parsons' family. His Blackzilians' teammates have felt the void, too.

"There's not much you can do other than move forward and make sure to remember that life is short," Curran said. "Things go by in a blink of an eye. It can change in a second.

"It's a very sad situation. It's a tough situation to talk about."

Curran (21-7) has no choice but to push ahead. He has a huge fight against Georgi Karakhanyan coming up Friday night in the co-main event of Bellator 155 in Boise, Idaho. Curran, 28, left his cousin Jeff's gym near Chicago for the first time in nearly a decade to return to South Florida where he spent most of his youth. This is a pivotal bout for him.

"I wasn't moving forward in Illinois," Curran said. "I was stuck. I wasn't bettering myself. I thought about retiring. I wanted to quit. All those thoughts are gone and out the window. Being out here, it's really re-motivated me. I found my drive back, I found the passion."

Curran is coming off a unanimous win over Emmanuel Sanchez, but that was in June 2015. He dealt with a torn MCL after that and before the Sanchez victory Curran, the former Bellator featherweight champion, lost two straight. This is a trying time in his career and Karakhanyan is a tough, well-rounded fighter. Curran felt like he needed a change and sought it with the Blackzilians.

"I love this area," Curran said. "It feels great to be back down here. It's definitely putting me in a better mood. On top of that, I'm training with one of the best teams, the Blackzilians. They're pushing the hell out of me and making sure I'm fight ready for May 20. Just on top of being in a good mood and back in a better environment, I'm training with them. The combination of the two is really going to bring out the best in me."

The vibes have understandably changed at the Jaco Hybrid Training Center following Parsons' death, but there was celebration after Dennis Wright, the man who allegedly struck Parsons with his vehicle, was arrested two weeks ago. Delray Beach police are accusing Wright of leaving the scene of the accident and then trying to cover up the alleged crime by attempting to have his Range Rover fixed and then hiding it.

"A guy like that definitely deserves to be put behind bars and pay for what he's done," Curran said. "He just left. He knew he hit somebody, but he just took off and he tried to hide the evidence. He tried to fix the car, he put it away in storage."

Curran said he still had a great training camp and plans to have Parsons in mind, much like Stefan Struve did in a recent UFC win, when he faces Karakhanyan on Friday.

"It definitely changed the environment down here, especially in the last week," Curran said. "But it's one of those things that you just have to keep pushing forward. Life is very short. You have to get the most that you can and live it to the fullest."

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