Curtis Millender (7-0) is defending U.S. turf at Bellator 134: British Invasion against fellow undefeated welterweight Michael “Venom” Page (7-0). Fast-tracked to the Bellator main stage after 7 fights in Fight Club Orange County, we ask the Bellator welterweight how he splits his time between coaching at UFC Gym Fullerton and training for his main card debut.
Scifighting: What made you want to pursue coaching in addition to professional competition?
Millender: I started wrestling as a kid at about 8 years old. Now I’m in a position where I can give back and I can teach the next generation. That’s awesome, I feel like the best thing that you can do is give back when so many people have put their time into you.
SF: Do you find that a lot of parents are resistant to the idea of teaching their kid how to “cage fight?”
Millender: Definitely. Every now and then we’ll get a parent that’s like “Well I don’t know if I want them to do this” but the kid’s really excited. What’s really unique about our program is that we have kids at all levels and ages. We make it not so much about fighting as we do about discipline and honor. We want to teach them the right way.
SF: After 7 fights in FCOC, what’s it like to be debuting in Bellator 134’s main card?
Millender: It’s awesome, it’s a blessing, definitely a dream come true. I know I’m ready for the world to see how talented I am and how good I am. If I would have gone another route where I fought on the under card for the next 2 years, it would have taken a lot longer to get to that status. Now, it’s putting me in main frame. I just want to go out there and show the world that I’m great, how much I love my country and that I can defend my country.
SF: How did you develop your sense of range and movement in fighting?
Millender: I took it from other sports. I also played football and basketball growing up and one of the main things that the coach would always tell you, especially if you’re playing defense, is to watch your opponent’s hips. If you see where their hips are going you know where the rest of their body’s gonna go. If I’m looking at your eyes, the fight is over and I have you under control. That means I don’t care where you’re going, I’m gonna do what I wanna do. If I’m still looking at your hips I’m still trying to figure you out. Once I start staring into your face, you’re done. I’m zeroed in, I have my range, I know where I can hit you and I know where I can’t hit you.
SF: All of your FCOC fights were fought in a ring. What do you like about a ring versus a cage?
Millender: In my first MMA Fight, I pretty much had to hide the fact that I was a wrestler. I wanted people to think that I was more of a standup guy so being in a ring, it was easier not to be taken down. I had little tricks I could use to make sure I could stay on my feet if someone wanted to take me down. Now the cat is out of the bag and I’ve already let everybody know that I’ve been wrestling for 20 years. Now it’s time to show that my style is taking the center of the ring or cage and using every part of the ring. I really believe that I’m a ring general– I’ve never lost in the ring, I know where I’m at. I know when I’m close to the gate, I know when to turn, I have my movement down. All I have to do is see it and I can do it.
SF: Coming from a wrestling background, would you like to see a promotion try fights on an open mat?
Millender: I don’t think I would prefer it that way. I think it’s great the way it is. It’s MMA for a reason, the clinch is definitely as important as taking the fight to the ground. I think not having a cage would benefit more standup guys than ground guys. But it would be cool to see somebody get doubled and slammed on the mat when they elevate it.
SF: What is your plan of attack going against Michael Page?
Millender: Be creative and be alert. I watched his last fight against Nah-Shon Burrell and if he made those same kind of mistakes with me it would be a long night for him. I’m just ready for him to make those mistakes. I believe him spinning at all is a mistake with me. The first time he spins, I’ll be on his back.
SF: For the untold number of “Brawlers,” and “Destroyers,” how did you earn the nickname “Courteous” Curtis Millender?
Millender: I’m just a genuinely nice guy. I love my team, I love everybody that loves me. I have so many people that have done so much for me over the years that I want to give back to. I want to do whatever I can to make sure my guys are taken care of. I’ll drop everything to make sure my guys are taken care of.
See Curtis Millender face off with Britain’s Michael “Venom” Page at Bellator 134 on Spike on February 27th at 9/8C.