by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Sitting out for a year definitely lit the fire inside former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner, who is more determined than ever to prove he belongs among the top 155-pounders in the sport.
In his comeback fight, Varner battled interim champ Ben Henderson to unify the WEC title. After putting on a strong performance through two rounds, he got caught in a vicious guillotine choke and was forced to tap out.
Now set to return to action in April against Kamal Shalorus, Varner is back working in Arizona, while also set to help open a gym in New York as well. There were rumors floating around before the WEC pay-per-view was made that he might end up fighting Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to settle their longstanding feud, but Cerrone will instead rematch Henderson.
“They had a good fight between him and Ben last year, so they need to come up with the best possible fights to sell tickets,” Varner told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview. “Even though me and Cowboy would be a great fight, and it would sell a lot of tickets, him and Ben had fight of the year.”
With the rematch between Cerrone and Henderson just two months away, Varner is focused on getting back to the title, and he weighed in on who he believes he might face after the title fight on April 24.
“I think Cowboy will beat him. Ben’s a tough fighter, but honestly he gets lucky in fights,” Varner commented. “He fights scared. He’s not as well rounded as Cowboy is, and as I am. I think Ben is a very tough fighter. If you make any mistakes with him he’ll make you pay.”
Following his own fight against Henderson, Varner was critical of the bout, and let it be known exactly how he felt. Now more than a month later, the Arizona based fighter still lives with some level of regret from that fight and how it ended.
“I thought I was putting all the pressure on the fight. Ben was running away a lot. I felt Ben fought scared, he fought not to lose, and I don’t think he was really fighting to win,” said Varner. “I just gave him an opportunity. I served him my neck up on a silver platter.”
Regardless of the outcome, the former lightweight champion is determined to learn from the loss, like he’s done after every fight, and come back stronger the next time around.
“Every time I’ve fought I’ve gotten better. Every time I’ve lost I’ve gotten better,” Varner stated. “Even from my first fight I lost to Jesse Moreng seven years ago, I lost that one, but it made me a much better fighter. Same with Hermes, even the Cowboy fight. Even though I won that fight, I felt like that Cowboy fight made me a tougher man, and I think the loss with Ben is going to make me an even better fighter.”
Despite trying to keep a positive attitude about moving forward, Varner admits to dealing with some tough emotions after the loss to Henderson, but he’s battled back and ready to prove it in April.
“That year off made me hungry. Even though I lost and I’m really disappointed, and I was really disappointed even a few days after the fight. I was like I never want to fight again, this sucks, Ben fought like a girl, he got lucky, and I was so angry and making excuses, but honestly looking back on it, I’ve had time to take a breath and relax and really reflect on the fight, and I had a lot of fun,” Varner said.
“It was good to be back in there. I enjoy doing what I do, and even though you can’t win them all, it was a good time and I can’t wait to get back in there.”
Getting back in there in April against Kamal Shalorus is the first order of business. Proving that he’s among the best in the world is what Varner hopes to prove to fans and critics alike in the long run.
“I really feel like I’m the best lightweight in the WEC, and I definitely feel like I’m one of the top five lightweights under Zuffa,” commented Varner.
The Arizona Combat Sports fighter will now head back into camp to start preparation for his April showdown against Kamal Shalorus on pay-per-view.