Jamie Varner's road to the championship did not take long. In his second appearance with WEC, he knocked out Rob McCullough and became the Lightweight Champion. Despite being 23 years old, Varner has already fought twice for the UFC and is one of the top young fighters in MMA. Prior to the McCullough fight, Varner was known primarily as a strong wrestler, but following the stand-up battle, opinions have changed on the young fighter. More and more fans are starting to see that Varner's potential exceeds what was previously thought.
This Sunday night he will make his first title defense against Marcus Hicks at WEC 35 (9pm Versus). Hicks is a burly former professional boxer who has yet to lose a fight. He is 3-0 in the WEC with all three victories coming by submission. Most lightweight fighters have a difficult time dealing with his strength in the cage. Varner will need to a find a way to counter Hicks' power and not get caught up in a wrestling match. This will be a great chance for Varner to prove that he has fully turned the corner and become a complete MMA fighter. Rear Naked News caught up with Jamie last week to see how his preparation was going for his first title defense.
What is the biggest difference between fighting for the title and defending it?
Once you have the belt you are the one everyone wants to beat. They are all coming for my belt. I think defending the belt defines the champion.
Do you have any strengths in your fight game now that started as weaknesses? I know they all sorta start as weaknesses, but anything stand out as something you were terrible at that is now a strength?
I have boxed and wrestled most of my life so those two aspects come second nature. I enjoy working on my submissions.
Before I ask this, let me first say I'm not a tall guy either, so the question isn't making fun of you, I'm just curious. One of the perks of being a professional MMA fighter is there are lots of gorgeous women happy to talk to you. What's the tallest woman you've been with?
Haha. Is that one of the perks? I have been training too damn much then. I have dated some tall women in my time but I am used to putting the one I am with on a pedestal.
Do you have any concerns about matching up with Marcus Hicks' power?
None at all. I bang with some great stand up guys. Marcus should be worried now that you told me being an MMA fighter can get me hot girls, I think I am going to try to stay on top.
A big debate in MMA fighting is whether winning a match is enough. A lot of people think you must win in an exciting way to be considered a top fighter. Do you agree with that?
No not really. Mma fans are unique and this sport will not have a undefeated fighter. Anything can happen and that is what makes MMA so great. I think fighters should be defined by toughness of opponents and the willingness to fight anyone at any time. A fighter that strives to fight the best is doing what it takes to be the best.
Was there a point in your career when you knew you had the talent to compete with the best fighters?
2nd round of my UFC fight with Hermes Franca. Here I was a guy brought in to lose and I was winning that fight. He caught me in the third but I knew I belonged. I knew I had what it would take to reach the top.