There was only one fighter Jamie Varner
didn’t want to meet in his UFC return.
Naturally, that’s whom he found himself in the Octagon with at UFC
“I knew I was going to get back to the UFC,” Varner told the
Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “That was my goal. I was going
to work hard no matter what, but my biggest thing was -- I told
myself and I even told people around me -- the one guy I don’t want
to fight when I come back, my first fight back, I just don’t want
it to be Edson
Barboza. I said him specifically. I mean, they could have me
Edgar my first fight back, but the one guy I didn’t want to
fight was Edson
Varner had decided Barboza would be a tough matchup months before
he was asked to fight him. The undefeated Brazilian was supposed to
take on Evan Dunham
at the May 26 card, but when Dunham dropped out, Varner got a call.
It was his manager, asking if he wanted to fight in the UFC.
“Shoot yeah,” Varner replied. “That sounds great. Who’s the
“Oh,” said Varner. “Oh. Oh man. God dang, that’s a tough one.”
Varner not only took the fight he didn’t want, he won it. He rocked
the highly touted Barboza on the feet and finished him with strikes
on the ground, pulling off the stunner 3:23 into the first
“I knew no matter what, I was at least going to put up a good fight
with Edson,” Varner said. “I know how fast and tough and dynamic
that he is. I’m like, ‘I’m going to keep my hands up, and if I have
to, I’ll at least take a beating for 15 minutes and hopefully try
to give one back.’”
The way Varner saw it, he had nothing to lose and a UFC contract to
gain. He signed a four-fight deal with the promotion, which comes
less than a year after he considered retiring from MMA following a
loss to Dakota
Cochrane. As of September 2011, the former WEC lightweight
champion had won just one of his last six bouts.
“In my career, I started out at the bottom,” Varner said. “Just
this young, punk kid that had a dream and I worked my way up to a
world title, defended it, then in one year I lost everything. In
one year I lost my title. I lost my job. I lost my love and respect
for the sport. It was just tough, man. Rock bottom. It was just
lonely and I was just miserable and angry. I didn’t want to fight.
I didn’t want to do anything anymore.”
Now, though, Varner has rediscovered his love for the sport. For
the first time in a long time, he genuinely wants to fight.
“The only thing that really held me back in my career, especially
in the past, was my mental game,” Varner said. “That is one thing
I’ve been really focusing on in the past few months. I think
training over there at The Lab with Ben Henderson and all those
guys and coach John Crouch and plus my trainer Trevor Lally
over at Arizona Combat Sports -- we’ve really been focusing on my
Certainly it seems to have helped him conquer any fear he had of
Barboza. Whether Varner will build on the victory remains to be
seen, but with the highs and lows he’s already had in MMA, it’s
easy to forget he’s only 27. A mature, focused Varner could be a
big factor in the UFC’s lightweight division.
“I’ve got anywhere from three to eight years left,” he said. “I
just want to make the most of it and I want to be able to go out on
my own terms and hopefully work my way up to a world title.”
Listen to the full
interview (beginning at 47:10).