by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Though he got pretty banged up in his second title defense, WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner will fight again.
On Thursday, the 24-year-old Arizona Combat Sports fighter passed an eye exam that will clear the way for him to be re-licensed by the California State Athletic Commission, who suspended him indefinitely following his winning effort against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at WEC 38.
The fight was stopped just under two minutes into the fifth round when Cerrone threw an inadvertent illegal knee that raked Varner’s eye, prompting an automatic tally of judges’ scorecards. All three judges saw the bout in favor of Varner.
Varner also broke his right hand and fractured his left foot during the bout.
Initially, cage-side doctors feared his eye injury might be severe.
“Ultimately when the doctor came in, I’m like, ‘I can’t see out of my right eye, can’t see out of my right eye,’ and it was making me nauseous,” he told MMAWeekly Radio three days after the fight. “Then he closed my left eye and was like shining the light in my right eye and my pupil wasn’t responding. That’s ultimately why he stopped the fight. I showed all the signs and symptoms for a detached retina. If that’s the case, my career is over.”
Varner sought a second doctor’s opinion after the first thought his retina might be torn.
“(The second doctor) told me it was more like my retina was strained,” he said.
There are slight tears in his retina, says Varner, though the injury will not necessitate surgery. “Technically, I could fight whenever,” he said.
His vision, however, continues to suffer.
“I’m not going to be able to fight for a while,” he said. “My vision isn’t as good in my right eye as it used to be. I used to have like 20/15.”
Still, Varner said his eyes were certified 20/20 by the ophthalmologist – good enough to fight.
On Monday, Varner will get the pins removed from his right hand, after which he will undergo four weeks of physical therapy. For his foot, he alternates between limping and a single crutch, and says he will be able to run and kick when the swelling comes down.
Though he was prescribed Vicodin for his injuries, he opted not to take the strong pain medication.
“I don’t take pills,” he said. “I don’t take any meds. When they set my finger after the fight, they wanted to put me under. I come from a long history of drug addicts. My parents are both recovering addicts and alcoholics, so I just try to stay away from everything.”
Though the WEC offered him a fight in June, Varner says he will not be ready until late summer or early fall. He would welcome the winner of Lamas vs. Palaszewski at WEC 40, or a rematch with Cerrone.
“I watched the fight three times,” he said. “I dominated every round of that fight. I beat him up pretty good. The only thing he did was – his face beat the (expletive) out of my foot and hand.”