by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Hurricane Ike started to loom its ugly head earlier this summer, World Extreme Cagefighting had no other choice than for the safety of the fans who would attend and the fighters on the card to cancel their September show and move all of the match-ups to a November do-over.
One fighter who wasn’t on the card, but who has been affected by the cancellation is none other than WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner, who expected to face the winner of the Rob McCullough/Donald Cerrone match-up for his next title defense.
Now with the last two WEC shows set for back-to-back months in November and December, the champ will have to wait until 2009 to fight again.
“Since that fight Sept. 10 got pushed back to November, now I’m definitely going to have some down time,” Varner said during a recent appearance on MMAWeekly Radio. “Because I’m supposed to fight the winner of Rob (McCullough) and Cowboy (Cerrone), but it doesn’t look like I’ll be fighting anybody until at the earliest January, maybe. Hopefully February, I’m hoping February, but who knows?”
While the downtime can adversely affect a fighter’s income and sponsorships, Varner has taken the opportunity to better himself in the process.
“It’s really, really frustrating, but honestly it gives you more time to get better, to improve my skills,” he commented about the down time. “When I’m training for a fight it’s really hard for me to make gains technically because I’m focusing on the fight; focusing on my conditioning. I’m training for that specific opponent. But when I have nothing lined up I can really focus on my kickboxing, really focus on my jiu-jitsu, I can just focus to get my overall game better.”
Besides helping other teammates out at Arizona Combat Sports preparing for fights, Varner has also taken it upon himself to work with a group of young fighters and help them realize their dreams the same way he has done.
One of his fighters recently signed onto the California based promotion Palace Fighting Championships, while another is making his pro debut in Washington this November. All in all, Varner handles their training, while managing and shaping their careers for a future in MMA.
He is also helping to give back to his community through a seminar he is currently scheduling in the Arizona area. With every dime of the proceeds going to charity, Arizona State University is likely to host the event for free in their gym, and Varner will host and teach at the event.
“I wanted to do something for the people here in Arizona to kind of get to know me and people around the nation to get to know me, and see that I’m more than just a fighter and that I have a big heart, a kind heart. So it’s probably going to end up being a four to six hour seminar, free seminar. It’s going to be 100 percent charity derived.
“They can either bring in like canned food, they can be there all day and learn from me, a completely free seminar. All I want people to do is either monetary donations, canned food, or toys. What we’re going to do is take the money and we’re going to give it to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. My aunt’s one of the head RN’s there and I’ve had the privilege of going down there and talking to some of the kids. It’s just amazing some of those kids, what their sickness is and how strong they are and how positive they are, and so I love to give back to kids. Also we’re going to do Toys for Tots and the canned food for St. Vincent DePaul or one of the other canned food drives.”
Outside of those remarkable endeavors, Varner is also helping to develop a new line of shirts set to be released soon that will be a “lifestyle” clothing line, similar to that of the popular “Ed Hardy” series of clothing, but at a much more affordable price.
Beyond all the extra projects, Varner still manages to work on his own career as well, hitting the gym at Arizona Combat Sports at least five to eight times a week, down from his normal 15 times a week when training for a fight, but still preparing and readying himself for the next big challenge.