by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Winning the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight title isn’t enough for champion Jamie Varner. The 155-pound king of the WEC is ready to conquer the world and prove that he belongs among the best lightweights around. The next test to prove that meddle stands opposite him on Sunday night as he faces Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to defend his title for a second time.
The Arizona Combat Sports standout has been on a destructive path through the best lightweights the WEC has to offer over the last year and a half. Starting with his title win over former champ “Razor” Rob McCullough, then moving on to a first-round stoppage of previously undefeated fighter Marcus Hicks, it’s Varner’s will to keep the streak alive and prove the naysayers wrong.
“It’s been a goal of mine for a while to break the Top 10,” Varner told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “Obviously my ultimate goal is to be No. 1 in the world, but I’ll take what I can get as far as this point. I don’t think grinding out a decision over Donald Cerrone will put me in the Top 10, but I think going out there and beating him in spectacular fashion will get me in the Top 10.”
The ultimate goal is also a very tough road, but Varner is confident that he has the skills and the team to get him there. The next stop on the road, Donald Cerrone, is an undefeated fighter who trains with Greg Jackson’s phenomenal MMA team.
Cerrone earned his shot at Varner’s title with a hard fought, three-round unanimous decision win over former champion Rob McCullough back in December. The fight, while not shown on live TV, gained much attention from fans and critics alike who said it should be nominated for best fight of 2008.
Always scouting his next opponent, Varner says that Cerrone did well in the fight against McCullough, which is exactly the footage he needed.
“I thought it was an amazing fight. Cerrone gave me exactly what I wanted,” Varner stated. “I wanted to see him go three rounds. I didn’t really care who won. I wanted to fight Rob again, but I didn’t really care who won. I just wanted to see if it was the Cowboy. I wanted to see him go three rounds and that’s exactly what I got. I’ve got video, I’ll be able to pick apart his game, and find some holes.”
With the win, Varner had no problem crowning Cerrone as the No. 1 contender for the title, but still believes that he doesn’t have the previous experience that will carry him through this fight.
“He definitely became the No. 1 contender with that fight. A lot of his other fights were a bunch of nobodies, honestly,” said Varner. “The fact that he went out there and pretty much submitted everybody in the first round really didn’t give me that much to go off of, or give me anything to work with. But since he had a three-round war with McCullough, that definitely solidified him as the No. 1 contender and made him the most deserving person in the WEC.”
Despite his efforts, the WEC champ still feels that Cerrone didn’t face the same Rob McCullough that he defeated to win the title and his confidence grew with each minute that expired in that fight.
“I don’t think Rob was ever the same fighter after I fought him, so I fought the more confident, better Rob McCullough,” commented Varner. “(Cerrone) said multiple times he wanted to fight the best Rob McCullough, and I don’t think Rob’s ever been the same since I knocked him out.”
Still, Varner remains complimentary of his opponent, and he understands exactly what he brings to the table for the title fight this Sunday night in San Diego.
“He’s a very tough guy. He definitely brings a lot of challenges to the table,” Varner said. “He’s (got) tough kickboxing, good jiu-jitsu, real lengthy, rangy fighter; so he brings a lot of things to the table that Marcus Hicks didn’t bring to the table, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen.”