Jamie Varner tells HeavyMMA.com that he’s ready to beat Donald Cerrone and put his rivalry with Cowboy behind him.
That night at WEC 38, Varner put his lightweight championship on the line against the upstart Cerrone, then unbeaten and fresh off a victory over former champion Rob McCullough. Through the first four rounds, the lightweights battled back-and-forth, Varner scoring early, while Cerrone grew stronger as the fight progressed.
During the final round, Cerrone struck a downed Varner with a knee to the head, bringing the bout to an abrupt conclusion. Ahead on the scorecards, Varner retained the title, and each fighter earned a public perception that endures to this day.
Despite the win, Varner was labeled a quitter and a complainer. Some questioned whether he used his injuries as a way out; with Cerrone coming on strong, many believe the challenger would have left as champion had the bout continued.
While Varner was forced to the sidelines with numerous injuries, Cerrone emerged from the bout as a star. The unfiltered Colorado native known as “Cowboy” parlayed his success in the cage and sharp tongue into two more attempts to claim gold, as well as a pair of headlining bouts.
The fierce rivals will renew their acquaintances inside the cage Thursday night at WEC 51. Varner is ready to put an end to the rivalry, silence Cerrone and cement his place as the top contender in the lightweight division.
“He can do all the talking he wants to. The fact of the matter is that right now, the score is 1-0. I got a win over him; he’s got nothing over me,” Varner says. “He’s got to win in order to tie, and I’m confident that I can put on a similar performance [to what I did] last time.”
Cerrone recently came under fire for an interview where he crossed the line from competitive to callous, using homophobic slurs and wishing bodily harm upon his nemesis. Varner had remained relatively subdued to that point, but the frustrations have begun to boil over.
“I don’t need to talk – I have nothing to prove. I was winning [the first fight] for five rounds until he decided to throw the illegal knee. He’s the one that’s throwing the groin shots over-and-over again, he’s the one that threw the illegal knee; he’s the one that does that stuff, not me,” Varner says.
“I’ve never been a dirty fighter; I’ve never had to cheat to win,” he continues. “It would have been one thing if I would have complained about that and he would have lost by disqualification, but he had an opportunity to win that last fight and he wasn’t good enough to do that. I won four out of the five rounds that we fought. I thought I had a dominant performance, and I did all that with a broken hand and a broken foot. Can you imagine if I didn’t break my hand in the first round? Maybe I would have been able to finish it.”
An emotional fighter who is a polarizing figure among fans, Varner leaves it all in the cage. Some fans love him for it, while others remain convinced that the 25-year-old Arizona native is a cocky competitor who is quick to make excuses and pass judgment on his opponents – and right now, it’s Cerrone who is stuck in his crosshairs.
“The way I look at it, all this banter has built Cowboy’s career. I made Cowboy who he is. Cowboy was nobody – he was just a contender – until he fought me, and with that controversy, it’s really made him a staple in the WEC,” he says. “He’s a really well-known fighter. He’s been known to headline – I think he’s headlined more cards than I have – so it’s good for him, it’s good for his career.”
“I don’t need fighting to be successful; he does. I fight because I love it and because I like to compete; he fights because he’s got nothing else. I just want to go out there and win. This fight right here is a step in the right direction.”
A victory Thrusday night would bring Varner one step closer to another shot at the lightweight championship he once held and mark the final chapter in a nearly two-year-old rivalry. Varner is ready, and he hopes the same goes for Cerrone.
“I just hope that he brings it [on Thursday] and after this fight, he has to eat a little crow. I hope I win this fight in decisive fashion and that way maybe it will humble him and he can grow.”