Jamie Varner knows he has a tough test in front of him on Thursday night at WEC 53. Not only is he fighting Shane Roller, but he may very well be fighting for his career, as the WEC merges with the UFC.
Still, that doesn’t mean Varner doesn’t have other goals going into his fight.
The former WEC lightweight champion believes he can still earn his way back to a shot at the belt, and also has a grudge to settle against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. It’s actually the second fight with Cowboy as to why he’s on this card at all.
“The whole reason why I fought Cowboy was to get on this card,” Varner explained to MMAWeekly Radio. “The WEC, I talked to them and they didn’t guarantee me, but they were like you go out there and you fight the Cowboy, cause I was still banged up from the Kamal (Shalorus) fight, my hand was messed up, my foot was messed up, my ribs were real banged up, and they’re like, if you want to get that title shot against Ben (Henderson), you fight the Cowboy, you beat the Cowboy, there’s a good chance you may get that.”
Varner accepted the fight against Cerrone, against his better judgment, and went in and had a solid performance, but came up short against his arch rival. He was also disappointed to find out before his fight with Cerrone ever happened that the WEC had already decided he wasn’t going to get the title shot anyway.
“Things didn’t happen in the fight the way I wanted them to, but even three weeks before that fight they had announced that Anthony Pettis was fighting Ben Henderson in my hometown, so I was a little bit bummed out about that, but nevertheless my performance against Cowboy wasn’t a championship performance,” Varner commented.
With two fights in the books against Cerrone, the Arizona native is gunning for a third. The two lightweights don’t like each other any more now than they did a year ago, and they probably won’t be exchanging Christmas cards this year either.
What Varner really wants is to get Cerrone in his home state the next time the UFC comes to Arizona.
“I think it’s only fair to have him fight me on my home turf,” Varner stated. “I went to the snake’s pit there in Broomfield, (Colo.). That crowd was the most ridiculous crowd ever. They’re just a bunch of classless hillbillies out there, it was crazy. I thought it would have been fair, it would have been nice, but I guess you’ve got to beat B.J. Penn, or Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock to get a back-to-back rematch.”
Varner does have an idea to get him and Cerrone a nice payday and an opportunity to further their careers, and at the end they get to punch each other in the face one more time.
“Both times me and Cowboy fought, it’s been fight of the night, so why not save that fight for the UFC. What I would like to see happen is even better, we both get through these fights coming up, then maybe be coaches on one of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ seasons to finish up our trilogy. Coach ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and then have our trilogy be on pay-per-view or something,” Varner said.
He has no mixed feelings about Cerrone.
“I hate that guy, he’s an idiot,” commented Varner.
Before he can even think about getting on “The Ultimate Fighter” or a third shot at Cerrone, he’s first got to get past Shane Roller on Thursday night. Varner has actually fought twice in the UFC before shifting over to the WEC, and make no mistakes about it, when the companies merge he wants to be part of the UFC again.
Even though Varner just signed a new extension with the WEC, none of that will matter if he loses on Thursday night.
“I’m not going to go back unless I win this fight. I know the WEC, they just signed me to a nine-fight deal, but they have no problem cutting me if I lose two fights in a row. First and foremost, I’ve got to get through Shane Roller. I’ve got to win this fight, and then I can start worrying about the UFC,” said Varner.
“I’m fighting for my life. It would be one thing if I signed this nine-fight deal and no matter what they couldn’t cut me, but Zuffa they can do whatever they want. So I’ve got to go out there and put on a good performance and I’ve got to win.”
To get ready for his upcoming fight, Varner left his comfort zone in Arizona and traveled to San Jose, Calif., to train. Working alongside the coaches and fighters at American Kickboxing Academy, Varner got to see how their team operates and says it will now become a part of every training camp going forward.
It’s that experience that led Varner to the mindset he has going into his fight with Roller. He got back to the basics.
“Going out there made me want to be that kind of dynamic fighter I used to be,” Varner confessed. “I got so used to standing up, wanting to punch people, that made me kind of lose track of who I was. The Jamie Varner people didn’t know if he was going to take you down and pound you out, or stand up, punch you, kick you, knee you, and that’s what I had to get back.”
What Varner expects out of this upcoming fight is pure excitement, and that’s something he guarantees every time he steps in the cage. It’s that attitude that Varner believes will make him a commodity in the UFC as well.
“I think there have been two fights in my time with Zuffa out of seven or eight fights that haven’t been either ‘Fight of the Night’ or ‘Knockout of the Night.’ With that said, I always put on stellar performances. I’m always exciting, whether people love me or hate me, they always want to see me fight because there’s always going to be some sort of drama, there’s always going to be something,” said Varner.
“Whether I’m getting screwed out of a decision, getting kicked in the nuts, getting poked in the eye, getting beat on the ground, something’s going to happen or I’m going to drop somebody and knock them out, or I’m going to hurt somebody and win the fight in exciting fashion.”
He hopes to carry that dynamite performance into Thursday night and then beyond in the UFC. Varner faces Shane Roller at WEC 53 in the final show ever for the promotion.