Curtis Millender is looking to make the second half of his career the best it can possibly be.
Millender will look to make it two straight wins when he takes on Sabah Homasi this Friday night at Bellator 243 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
After getting released by the UFC in 2019, Millender signed a deal with Bellator MMA and made an immediate impression. “Curtious” competed for the promotion four times before signing with the UFC in 2018 and made the walk once again almost three years to the day he had done it previously.
“That night was awesome,” Millender told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “It meant a lot because I got to go out there and show that I’m not just a striker. I can take you down, I can go for submissions, I can do different things. Just the whole stress of not fighting from April to January, the uncertainty that I had leading up for that whole eight months, it was a real stressful second half of 2019.
“I’m actually having a better time this year than I was at this time last year.”
The Anaheim, Calif. native was able to use the time away from competition to evolve his game after being released by the UFC following back-to-back losses to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Belal Muhammad.
Heading into Bellator 238, Millender felt rejuvenated.
“With that time off, I got to heal up a lot,” Millender explained. “I got to sit down, refocus, and see what fighter I really wanted to be. I wanted to see how I wanted it to go in this second half of my career so I had to step up some things.”
Originally expected to face Timothy Johnson, Millender had the proverbial deck shuffled up on the road to his first fight since the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm. Whether it was Johnson, Homasi, or any other option, with 23 pro fights under his belt, there won’t be much in the way of surprises that can come his way.
“At this point in my career, everybody is gonna do the same things,” Millender said. “Once I start punching them in the face, once they see the speed, the power, the way I move, they’re going to start diving for the legs. At this point, there isn’t too much that I haven’t seen.”
Homasi, also a former UFC fighter, made his Bellator return—nearly five years after his last appearance—at Bellator 225 in August. “The Sleek Sheik” made the most of his opportunity by picking up an impressive 17-second knockout of Micah Terrill.
Despite Homasi’s power and finishing ability on the feet, Millender is confident his opponent will shy away from any type of striking approach very quickly.
“I love [the matchup] but, like I said, everyone I fight turns into a wrestler,” Millender stated. “Once they actually stand in front of me, it’ll be maybe a half a round before he starts shooting.”
“I’m always focused on what I can do and my skill set. This last year, I’ve been getting back on the mats, wrestling and grappling a lot more, doing more competitions just so I can be comfortable doing everything. I’ve always been comfortable but I haven’t always had the complete confidence that I can do it when it’s time to do it.”
Millender signed a two-fight deal with Bellator prior to his January bout, which means this will be the final fight before he plans to test free agency. With a lot riding on his performance from a financial perspective, he plans to make a statement.
“I see it with a finish,” Millender said. “That’s the only way I’m gonna get what I want is to be finishing these dudes.”
One intriguing welterweight matchup that has yet to come together is a fight between Millender and Michael Page, whom Millender called out after his Bellator 238 win. While that matchup is still on his radar, it’s become a “I’ll believe it when I see it” type of scenario.
With a win on Friday, Millender wants the biggest fight he can get—in or outside of the Bellator cage.
“That’s always there but we’ve been paired or matched so many times and I’m not the one saying no,” Millender explained. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t but I’ll take on anybody. Anybody that is going to get me closer to the belt, to the top of the heap, that will get me paid like I think I should, that’s what I want.”
When asked how many times Bellator has tried to make the matchup between he and Page, Millender says it was brought to his attention many times.
“Four or five times,” Millender stated. “The last time was on a week’s notice. When he had his best chance, he didn’t take it.”