Opportunities. They can be few and far between in the fight game. Sometimes, it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.
UFC 214 takes place at the end of July at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. It will be the promotion’s first event to hit the Los Angeles area in over a year, and many area prospects are chomping at the bit to get on the card. So, when L.A.’s own Curtis Millender got the opportunity to fight another local guy on the main card of Legacy Fighting Alliance 13 on Friday night in Burbank, Calif., he could not pass it up.
Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance came together at the beginning of 2017 to form the LFA. In recent years, these have been some of the top feeder promotions to provide talent to the UFC. Millender will headline LFA 13 opposite another local guy, Kevin Holland. Headliners get a ton of attention from the UFC brass, so the timing is impeccable.
“I’ve known for about two months,” Millender told Combat Press. “[Holland] has been on the radar for a little bit of time as well — seeing us go back and forth on the Tapology rankings. I’ve been wanting to fight him. I’m very, very blessed we’re on the main event of a big show, so people are going to see this fight. It would have sucked to have this fight get wasted at a club show or a show that nobody was going to see.”
The LFA 13 stage is a big one, indeed. UFC 214 is right across town, too. Typically, any last-minute fallout can lead to a local fighter getting a shot. While there aren’t any welterweight or middleweight fights currently on the card, the lineup is not complete. Millender is keeping his hopes high.
“July 29th, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are fighting at the Honda Center, which is right in my backyard, so I would love to fill that place up,” Millender said. “Hopefully, this finish gets me there. Fighting at the Honda Center, that’s my dream.
“I’ve been wrestling and boxing since I was eight years old, so I naturally fit into this MMA game. I truly love my life, and I’m ready to be at the top. I want to be in the UFC, and I’m hoping a big win is going to get me there.”
Millender is no newcomer to the sport. With an 11-3 pro record, titles in two different organizations, and four Bellator fights under his belt, he has plenty of big-stage experience. After nine of his first 13 fights ended in decision, Millender was happy to get a second-round knockout at his last fight in January at Bellator 170.
“I’m truly ready to be a finisher,” Millender said. “I understand that’s what’s probably holding me back from being in the UFC. I would’ve been in the UFC two years ago if I was finishing people instead of playing the game. That’s always been the objective, but now, when I hit, I need to kill.”
When Millender knocked out Johnny Cisneros in January, it marked his first knockout finish in nearly two and a half years. Tomorrow night, he is looking to string together two knockouts in a row against Holland, whose family recently rubbed Millender the wrong way.
“The fight got really interesting,” Millender explained. “Our parents know each other, and Holland’s grandfather is the bass player at my parents’ church. His grandfather posted a nursery rhyme using my name, and I fired back, so now we got a fight. We got some bad blood, and the shit-talking is out now.”
Between fight training with the guys at Combat Submission Wrestling, striking camp at NOC Fight Team, and strength and conditioning at Body Evolution, Millender is preparing for an absolute war. While it makes for a good story, the Holland-family barbs are not his primary motivation to fight. At age 29, Millender is motivated by something far more important.
“I want to give my sons everything, and I truly feel like this is the easiest way to get the means to take care of them, but the road is not easy at all,” Millender said. “The road to making a lot of money, so I can take care of my family, is not easy. I only say it’s easy because I am very blessed and fortunate to be doing exactly what I planned to do for 10 years. I’m definitely ready to do whatever it takes. I wouldn’t say that I’d die to get there, but I’d definitely kill for it.”