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Dealing with a loss was a new feeling for Santo Curatolo, and one the former CFFC champ doesn’t really want to get all too familiar with moving forward. But the 26-year-old flyweight says he learned the lessons needed and is now ready to start storming through the division once again.

“I’m just really looking forward to getting back in there and showing everybody that all that hype about me wasn’t a fluke,” Curatolo said. “Just get back in there and perform and do what I’ve always done and get my title back.”

Curatolo opened his professional career with five straight first-round finishes and seemed destined for a spot in the UFC. However, this past October, Alberto Trujillo spoiled those plans and went toe-to-toe with Curatolo before stopping him in the second round. Nasty leg kicks were a huge part of Trujillo’s arsenal, and it left Curatolo dealing with complications after the contest.

“I had compartment syndrome,” Curatolo said. “There was no tendon damage, no muscle damage, no ligament damage, no bone damage. It was literally just a blood clot, so they had to cut my leg open to release the inflammation, to release the pressure.

“I was in the hospital for 10 days. The day I was out of the hospital, I was training already. I was having a hard time, at first. I was doing a lot of strength training, everything seated, and then about a week later, I was on my feet hitting pads already. Like one week out of the hospital, I was hitting pads. I mean, very stiff, you know – very stiff on my leg – but I was making dramatic progress day by day.”

Curatolo said he’s fully recovered now. In hindsight, he thinks he probably shouldn’t have stepped in the cage back in October. He’s hesitant to talk too much about the issues he faced ahead of time for fear it might sound like sour grapes, but he knows he won’t allow himself to be in a similar situation again.


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“My health was a little bit of a concern, and the main thing I learned is just don’t take any pressure,” Curatolo said. “I know the UFC was looking at me. I had a lot of people who bought tickets, and I kind of felt the pressure that I needed to fight, and I’m never going to feel like that again. I’m going to put myself first before everything.

“I like to look at it like I was perfectly fine, then try to take as much as I can out of it, but I’ve got to be honest with myself. At the end of the day, I wasn’t healthy. I didn’t belong in there, and, you know, it’s my choice. I’m a grown man, and it was my decision, and that’s it. I’ve got to take it like a man.”

Curatolo (5-1) gets a chance to start another winning streak at Saturday’s CFFC 98 event, which streams live on UFC Fight Pass from Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena. The former champ meets fellow contender Dilshod Zaripov (4-1) in a key flyweight contest.

Curatolo and his team at Nick Catone MMA are very familiar with Zaripov and insist they aren’t taking him lightly but feel very confident in their chances.

“I treat everybody like the best fighter in the world,” Curatolo said. “I try not to take anybody lightly, but to be honest, I do think it’s a little bit of a mismatch. I think I’m going to blow right through this kid, and I think he knows it, and I think my coaches know it. My team knows it. He used to train at my gym, and I know people who have told him personally that he shouldn’t have taken the fight because they’re friends with both of us. But I mean, listen, I don’t know. He might see it as an opportunity, and that’s fine, you know? It is what it is.

“I love competitive fights. I wanted a good fight, but I took it because he kind of called me out, and I feel it’s a little bit of disrespect to my coach, Nick Catone. I mean, I don’t take any disrespect from anybody. I love all fighters. You know, we all share the same passion. I try to never convince myself that there’s personal beef or anything like that, but I am taking this a little bit personal because I just feel like he disrespected my coach, and this is more for Nick. I want to beat this guy up for Nick, not even for me so much.”

Of course, an impressive victory would go a long way toward erasing the frustration of the last outing for Curatolo, as well. He seemed like an absolute can’t-miss prospect before the setback, and he’s anxious to get going down that path, once again, and he’ll let the results speak for themselves.

“After I lost, I felt like I kind of wanted to just fly under the radar,” Curatolo said. “I want to be silent, and I want to just start posting highlights of me knocking people out again, and that’s it. I don’t even want to talk. I feel kind of ashamed, a little bit. It’s embarrassing. But, you know, you learn to live with it, and I’m going to want that feeling of winning again.”

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