Jamie Varner – Looking To End His Comeback Year On Top
By PDG Staff
When MMA historians look back, what will 2012 be remembered for? It’s been a big one for the relatively young sport, the most notable has been the UFC’s deal with network and cable giant Fox. Aside from the obvious, this could be considered the year of the comeback. Mike Swick came back from a career threatening illness, just as Georges St. Pierre came back from a devastating knee injury. Amidst all of the comebacks, one is flying under the radar and may be the most impressive of all.
At this time last year Jamie Varner was about two months removed from a loss that nearly provoked retirement. Fast forward to May of 2012, fresh off two consecutive knockouts in the XFC and the 28-year-old finds himself opposite Edson Barboza, in the Octagon, at one of the best cards of 2012 – UFC 146. Less than four minutes later, the former WEC champ would exit the cage victorious, and with a new lease on his fighting life.
Fast forward once again to August 2012 and Varner is now facing off with Joe Lauzon – a top five lightweight – on a nationally televised Fox card, in front of millions of people worldwide, in a fight that would earn him a Fight of the Year nomination.
“Well, we had a great fight, but I was on the losing end of that fight, so it’s probably not as meaningful for me as it is for Lauzon.” Varner told PunchDrunkGamer in a one on one interview, in regard to the nomination. “It’s awesome that I’m getting respect for fight of the year, but I’ve got some stiff competition. That Dan Henderson fight vs. Shogun Rua was a great fight, the Korean Zombie vs. Dustin Poirier was a great fight too. I felt like Joe Lauzon was a great fight for me. It was a good fight, it’s definitely a fight I wish I could do over, but honestly it’s an incredible honor, but it’s kind of bittersweet because I came out on the losing end.”
Yes, Varner did come out on the losing end of that fight, but one thing is clear, in his next matchup, he’ll have the chance to come out on the winning end of what could be an early Fight of the Year candidate for next year. He’s back in the cage with Melvin Guillard at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale December 15th. Together, the two have amassed an astonishing 39 finishes, with 26 of those coming via knockout. Don’t count on this one going the distance either.
“Everyone keeps telling me he’s so fast, he’s so powerful, he’s so athletic. Well yeah, but so is Edson Barboza,” Varner says of Guillard. “I compare it a lot to the Edson Barboza fight, another guy who is fast, powerful and athletic. But, (Guillard’s) a living, breathing human being and he can be beat. He’s been beaten before. He’s really tough, I just have to be the best Jamie Varner there’s ever been. My defense has to be on point, I can’t be lazy, I have to be in good shape and I have to bring the fight to him. That’s going to be the biggest thing, not making any mistakes, keeping my chin down, my hands up and watching out for his one big shot happening and being able to catch him with the big shots.”
The fight was a late addition to the card, having been announced just six weeks before the fight is set to go down at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. However, short notice fights are something “C-4” has become accustomed to. In both the fight against Barboza and Lauzon, Varner had less than a month to prepare, this time he’ll be on the same playing field as his opponent and knows he will be ready.
“I got the call about six weeks out from the fight, so it’s two more weeks than I’ve had my past two fights. I don’t really like really long training camps and the fact that I’m already in the gym anyway helps a lot,” Varner admits. “I started making some lifestyle changes just because I wanted to lose weight and get in shape. There are a lot of fight cards coming up, so I was actually getting in shape just in case someone got hurt on one of those cards, just so I could get on it. I was in the gym pretty consistently, even with my broken hand I was still doing my strength and conditioning, doing some running, bicycling, swimming, I was doing a lot of different things.”
The broken hand he’s referring to was suffered during the second round of the fight with Lauzon. The official diagnosis was a small fracture of his fourth metacarpal, but the hand never slowed him down. He remained focused in the gym working on his strength and conditioning, and entered a jiu-jitsu tournament, eventually losing by two points in the finals – even though he hasn’t competed in a tournament in four years.
In addition to staying busy training, the Arizona native has also occupied his time playing fantasy football. He’s an avid Cardinals fan, and unfortunately for him, his fantasy team is about on par with his NFL team. The Cardinals currently sit next to last in the NFC West with a 4-6 record. Varner can sympathize with them.
“Absolutely horrible,” he says of his fantasy team’s performance. “For the whole season my team has the most points, but my record is 3-8. I’m number eight in my 10 person league and I’ve scored more points total, than every other team. When I win, I win big but when I lose, I lose just by a couple points and it’s crazy.”
While his fantasy team may not be doing well, his Superbowl pick, the Atlanta Falcons are 8-1 and well on their way to a post-season birth. As with the Falcons, things are only looking up for Varner. With a win next month, he will likely find himself in the top 10 rankings of a stacked lightweight division. As the UFC continues its expansion, Varner will be continuing his rise to the top.
“I’m proud of myself, from the depths that I’ve had – from how low that I was, to be able to persevere and work my way back to the UFC. From where I was last year to where I am now, they’re just two completely different places. I’m very happy. I’m very happy to be back.”
Post your comments directly below! You can also discuss the latest MMA & Video Game News in the PunchDrunkGamer Forums and don’t forget to Follow PDG on Twitter @PunchDrunkGamer and Like the PDG Official Facebook Page!