Jamie Varner Talks WEC 49, Shalorus and Call of Duty
By Dave Carpinello
Former WEC lightweight champion and UFC veteran Jamie Varner recently talked with PDG about his upcoming fight Sunday night at WEC 49 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada against Kamal Shalorus, his changes to his training, fighting in Canada and his Call of Duty obsession.
PDG: How do you feel heading into Sunday night’s fight?
Jamie Varner: Honestly, I am just ready to fight and see what happens, I am just as anxious as everybody else. We will just have to see how everything plays out.
PDG: What was your training like leading up to this fight?
Jamie Varner: The training camp went very well and I have no injuries so I can’t complain at all. Of course I got banged up a little bit but with my doctors at Arizona Pain Specialists, I was completely taken care of.
PDG: Did you do anything different training for Kamal Shalorus than you did in your preparation for Benson Henderson?
Jamie Varner: Right after that loss, I really started working on my strength and conditioning. Before that fight with Ben I had nearly a year long layoff and had my hand in a cast on and off for six months. In that fight I didn’t feel as strong as I usually do, so right after it I started hitting the weights really hard. I am stronger now than I was before the injury and I have known for some time that I would be fighting Kamal and he is a big strong wrestler. So I wanted to be prepared and I think that this fight is going to come down to who is stronger and tougher once we get into the cage. This could be the first fight I have had where my opponent can match me in strength, so that was a big emphasis in my training.
PDG: After you lost to Benson Henderson, you said he came to grapple and you came to fight; do you feel more confident going into this fight if Kamal tries the same gameplan?
Jamie Varner: Actually, I said that because I felt that Ben was fighting like a bitch and I was super-emotional following the fight. Ben fought his fight that night, I don’t think it is the most exciting way to fight but he got the win and that is the most important thing regardless of how you get it. That is definitely something that I learned from Ben in that fight. Sometimes you are not going to go out there and have a fight of the night performance, a knockdown drag-out battle, sometimes your opponent is not going to fight your fight and you need to adapt.
PDG: That was only your second loss in almost four years; did it have any adverse effects on you or did it just increase your drive?
Jamie Varner: Losing sucks and I am a sore loser and I have no problem saying it, that is why I am so good at winning. That is why I train so hard and if I have to lose once every four years… I guess I will be OK with that. If that is all I lose throughout my career, I will be able to look back and be happy with that. The opportunity to get in there and fight, even losing to Ben, is a learning experience and I have always learned more from losing. Whether it was in wrestling, boxing or MMA and Ben made me a better fighter by beating me.
PDG: The US fans haven’t exactly been pro-Varner, what kind of reception are you expecting from the fans in Canada?
Jamie Varner: I don’t really worry about the fans that much anymore and I think that in trying to please the fans in my last fight, I was amped up and that it allowed Ben to catch me in that guillotine choke. That being said, I have always gotten a good response in Canada. The Canadian fans seem more accepting and they are more passionate than some of the American fans are, who seem more judgmental. I fight for my fans, love me or hate me, you have to respect me because I always throw down and I have never been in a boring fight.
PDG: What advantages, if any, do you see going into your fight with the undefeated Kamal?
Jamie Varner: For one I am better looking. [Laughs] All joking aside, I think that we are very similar fighters, we are both boxers/wrestlers, neither one of us throws many kicks but it is something to be aware of during the fight. He is a better wrestler but I am a better striker but with a powerful puncher like Kamal, sometimes those advantages cancel out each other. It was very hard for me to find a sparring partner that throws looping, powerful hooks that are not very technical. So my defense is going to be a big key in this fight along with my speed and accuracy.
PDG: Do you think that with WEC pushing into the PPV market that they will follow the UFC model and have mostly big names on the PPV and then maybe only two big fights on the Versus cards like the Spike TV shows?
Jamie Varner: They definitely put a lot of emphasis into that last PPV card, so a lot of the WEC headliners were unavailable for this event in Canada. But there are a lot of great match-ups on this card Sunday Night. There are some tough guys fighting that maybe don’t have a lot of name recognition including my opponent who is probably the toughest guy most fans have never heard of. No disrespect and the hardcore fans that follow the WEC know who he is but the average fight fan probably doesn’t know him or most of the other fighters on this card. Which is great for the fighters because they get a chance to make a name for themselves on Sunday night. As far as following the UFC model, why wouldn’t they, that is how fighters get known to the vast fan base. They fight on TV first and then if they are successful, they make it to the PPV’s. You have to build everything from the promotion to the fighter; the UFC went from having six shows a year to nearly 100 events a year now.
PDG: So would you rather the two companies stay separate or merge into one big promotion?
Jamie Varner: It is different for me than it is for fighters in the other weight classes in the WEC. I have unfinished business here in Kamal Shalorus and Ben Henderson, but if I can win both of those fights I would love to go back to the UFC and test myself there. Right now though, the WEC is recruiting more and more talent and I feel like Kamal is the toughest opponent of my career because I have never fought such a dynamic wrestler with his strength. The WEC keeps finding tough fighters such as Anthony Pettis and Shane Roller and I am just happy to be a part of the WEC lightweight division.
PDG: Let us move on to gaming, when did you have to put away your copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to concentrate on training?
Jamie Varner: I was playing the night before I left for Canada, I didn’t put it away at all.
PDG: Is that all that you are still playing?
Jamie Varner: Yes, I have some other games but that is because other people bought them for me but I only like my Call of Duty. I am looking forward by the way to ripping up some PunchDrunkGamer readers later this summer, so stay tuned for details.
PDG: Thanks again for your time Jamie, is there anything you wanted to add?
Jamie Varner: As always I want to thank all of my fans and friends that keep supporting me and all of my sponsors that keep me going.
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