Trilogy. Saga. Rivalry.

All of the above terms are ways to describe an ongoing story—a story that tests the idea of one side vs. the other. In the world of fighting, the list of trilogies is much longer than some may think, but a couple notable ones come to mind. The most popular include Chuck Liddell’s rivalry with Randy Couture and Frankie Edgar’s rivalry with Gray Maynard.

Couture and Liddell had a back-and-forth trilogy that ended in a true rubber match, and all three of their contests were UFC light heavyweight title fights. Couture beat Liddell by TKO in the first bout, before Liddell knocked out Couture twice in a row. The final fight was a much-anticipated, well-deserved rubber match for winner-takes-all honors. It was one for the ages, and fans couldn’t have wanted it more.

Straus (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Straus (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Edgar and Maynard had a bit of a different setup. The sequel machine, Edgar, first faced Maynard in 2008, when Maynard took a three-round decision. Four fights later, Edgar won the UFC lightweight title. His second defense was an epic, award-winning battle that ended in a split draw against Maynard in which Edgar retained his strap. Fans wanted an immediate rematch, and rightfully so. In the third fight, both men showed up again, but Edgar was able to knock out Maynard in the fourth round. Case closed.

However, not all trilogies in MMA are as desirable. The Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz trilogy turned into nothing more than a whining match gone awry. When Cruz and Faber first met, it was Cruz’s first fight in the WEC, and it was against the incumbent featherweight champ, who submitted Cruz in the first round. The two met again in the UFC, but Faber failed to take away Cruz’s bantamweight strap. The trash-talking lead-up was childish at best, and it led to a reality show rivalry on The Ultimate Fighter: Live. The ridiculousness only got worse on the show, but the rubber match never happened, due to injuries that have sidelined Cruz. Now, neither man holds a belt, so even if it could happen, fans will probably care even less than before.

Needless to say, the above trilogies captured the spotlight on one level or another, but they were mostly organic—a natural progression between two fighters. Now, Bellator featherweight champ Daniel Straus is set for a trilogy of his own with Pat Curran. Unfortunately for Straus, it is a trilogy that most people feel is not a natural progression at all. Those people believe it to be manufactured by the Bellator brass.

In both men’s seventh professional fight, nearly five years ago, Straus met Curran for the first time at XFO 29 in Curran’s home state of Illinois. Curran won the fight by second-round knockout, and both men continued on with their careers. Curran had mixed results, going 4-2 in his next six fights before entering Bellator a year later. Straus went on a 10-0 run before entering Bellator nearly two years later. This was a setup that could easily lead to an eventual rematch, but nothing many fans would have considered a sequel by any means.

Curran won two Bellator tournaments, lost a bid for Eddie Alvarez’s lightweight strap and eventually became the Bellator featherweight champ when he defeated Joe Warren in March 2012. All the while, Straus flew quietly under the radar, beating every Bellator opponent, with the exception of top contender Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.

Curran defended his belt twice, scoring a very controversial split decision victory over Pitbull and a first-round submission of Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Then, he met Straus for the second time last November.

In November, Straus exacted his revenge and then some, easily winning a five-round decision to become the new Bellator featherweight champ. In doing so, he pushed Curran to the back of the line…or so he thought.

Straus has had a lot of decisions in his fighting life. In fact, his 14 decision wins make up more than half of his 22 total victories. Although he won the strap from Curran, he really wishes he could have finished the fight.

“I was happy that I won,” said Straus in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I felt like I didn’t bring my best. I mean, I can’t say I didn’t bring my best, but there were things I wanted to do in the fight that I wasn’t able to. But, overall, I was very pleased with how I prepared for the fight.”

Straus was happy to bring home the belt. He was even looking forward to getting back into the cage against his next opponent, which many expected to be Pitbull, who just won the featherweight tournament in November with a first-round TKO. Straus took a little time off, but then got right back to training.

“It was a good feeling,” Straus intimated. “I feel like that moment was really quick. It was great to feel victorious for a second. Then, it was just back to the grind. I went home for a little bit to see my little girl, so it was about two to three weeks before I was back in the gym.”

Straus (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Straus (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Straus was back at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., getting ready for what most assumed was going to be a fight with Pitbull, when the unthinkable happened. About eight weeks out from this Friday night, Straus got word that Bellator, exercising a clause in the contract, was setting up an immediate rematch for Curran. This move sparked a great deal of outrage in the MMA community.

Curran may have won a couple tournaments and briefly held the strap, but he did not put on a Maynard- or Couture-worthy performance in his last fight. Straus clearly won and Pitbull was next in line. That’s why Bellator has its tournament format in the first place, complained critics of Bellator’s decision to grant Curran an immediate rematch.

“It’s another fight for me,” Straus admitted. “That’s all I really want. I think it’s going to go in my favor again. I feel like I’m the better fighter. He’s a tough guy, a very talented guy, but I feel I have what it takes to beat him. I think the fight will go my way again.”

Straus’ work in the gym has been very focused on stopping Curran. If the fight goes to a decision, there’s a really good chance that Straus will get the best of his opponent again. However, he would prefer to keep this out of the judges’ hands.

“Training’s mostly the same, but I switched it up a little bit with some things I want to get done in this fight,” said Straus. “I’m kind of switching my style up a little bit. Other than that, it’s the same coaching staff, same teammates and same sparring partners.

“I’m hoping I can get the knockout, man. If not, I’m looking for the choke. Either way, I’m hoping I can win this fight big.”

In his last outing with Curran, Straus was clearly the dominant fighter, and that was only a few months back. If there was any time for him to look at switching his game up a bit, it would be against Curran, as opposed to the fiery little Pitbull, who has three knockouts in his last four fights. A win over Curran will most likely set up the rematch with Pitbull, but that would only fulfill half of Straus’ goal for 2014.

“If I can fight four times this year, that would be awesome,” he said. “Obviously, I’m looking to hold on to that belt throughout the year. Like I said, I’m trying to change up my fight style a little bit. I’m definitely looking to get a few finishes this year. I’m just trying to get the job done.”

Regardless of what the Bellator brass or the fans think about Curran deserving a rematch, Straus will beat whoever he needs to in retaining the Bellator strap, and that’s what he plans to do Friday night at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind.

He has had a long road to becoming the Bellator featherweight champ, and he’s not going to just let someone take it away in the next fight.

“I hold the world title, and I’m one of the best fighters in the world. I’m top-five in the world right now. Why wouldn’t people want to see me fight?”

Straus would like to thank his management, fans and everybody else supporting him. Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielStraus