UFC 169 goes down on ‘Super Bowl’ weekend with a stacked event. Both the Bantamweight and Featherweight titles are on the line, plus numerous other exciting matchups span the entire card. One such matchup is a battle between rising prospect, Abel Trujillo, and longtime veteran and former WEC Lightweight champion, Jamie Varner.
Varner, who is coming off of a shoulder injury, stepped in on short notice to fight the streaking Trujillo in the opening fight on the main card. This fight will certainly set the tone for a great night of fights. With just under a week to go, I recently sat down with Varner to talk about short notice fights, Abel Trujillo, his shoulder injury, and much more.
How he feels going into a short notice fight
I feel good man. I generally flourish on short notice fights. Coming off the shoulder injury I was kind of able to hit the ground running. I was doing about 6 to 8 workouts a week before I got the call to fight Abel, so I wasn’t starting in a hole. I actually had some momentum with my conditioning and training already going into this last minute bout.
Opening up the pay per view card
It excites me. I started my career in the UFC fighting Hermes Franca and that was the first fight of the night on pay per view. That was actually the last time I fought on pay per view, so it is kind of cool doing it again 8 years later.
His shoulder going into the fight
It is definitely not 100%, but no real complaints from me. It is not as strong as it was, but coming off the injury I only had probably a month to straighten it up before I got into fight camp.
How he got the fight in the first place
I actually texted Joe Silva telling him that I got medically cleared back at the end of December, right after the Anderson Silva fight. I said ‘Hey, I got medically cleared for my shoulder. Just wanted to let you know to keep your eyes out for a potential matchup for me.’ He asked me when I would be ready and I told him ‘Probably the soonest would be February’. Then two day later, I heard about Bobby Green pulling out of UFC 169. I got a text from Joe that said February 1st against Abel Trujillo, what do you think? I said ‘let’s go’.
Is a short notice fight better because you have no time for nerves, or worse because less time to prepare?
For me it is about 50/50. It is definitely the latter of the two. I don’t have as much time to really worry about and focus on the opponent. As far training goes, I am focusing on getting in shape, getting my technique down and my timing back. I am so much more focused on me then him so it is a lot less stressful as far as that goes. You always have that in the back of your mind though, ‘did I prepare enough? Did I have enough time? Did I get overzealous taking this fight on short notice?’ For me mentally I don’t have the time to really focus on the opponent so much and potentially scare myself. I am just focused on getting in shape and getting ready going into the fight.
His thoughts on Abel Trujillo
He is a very big, explosive, and fast guy. It doesn’t look like he gets hurt with big shots, and he keeps coming forward. He has a lot of power in both hands, so I am going to give him the edge as far as the striking goes. I definitely paid close attention to the Khabib fight though. Abel was really good at bouncing back up to his feet off the ground, so I hope my grappling will be superior to be able to hold him down and try and negate some of that explosive speed that he has on his feet.
Abel said that he wants to make a name off of you, what is your response?
I think that is exactly the point for him. He is an up and coming guy, and his only loss in the UFC is to the guy I think is probably one of the best in the division. Khabib isn’t the most exciting fighter, and I don’t think he is the best fighter, but he is so good at what he does by taking people down and holding them down, that I don’t see too many people being able to beat him. Granted, has Khabib ever fought a big puncher? You always have the punchers chance if he runs into it, but he is pretty unstoppable when it comes to controlling someone on the ground. With that being said, Abel’s only loss is to one of the best guys in the division.
Why is Dana White saying no one wants to fight Khabib when both you and Michael Johnson offered?
I think Khabib is at that point where fighting a guy like me, or even Michael Johnson, is definitely a step down for him as far as competition goes. He has won a lot of fights, he is undefeated, and he is looking to get as close to the title shot as possible. Beating guys like us does not get him there, so I understand that. Had I got the decision against Gleison Tibau, which I thought I did win that fight, the fight with Khabib would make sense. I lost that fight, and the way Michael Johnson won the fight I feel like Johnson would be a decent matchup for Khabib. The winner of that fight would then fight in a number #1 contenders bout.
Nerves going into a fight
It has changed over the years because I have been fighting for so long. I am going into my 11th year of being a professional Mixed Martial Artist. I used to be very nervous, and the nerves definitely kept me sharp, but I got to a point where the nerves were holding me back and hindering my performances. I would say now I am a lot more used to being in the spotlight, and I am used to the fights now. I am not as nervous, and especially going into this fight. I know Abel is very dangerous, tough, and has a high probability of winning the fight because 1. He is fast 2. He is athletic and 3. He had a lot more time to prepare. I just got to go out there and hopefully being a veteran and savvy in the Octagon and not really having those jitters will help me come out with the W.
His greatest career moment
Probably my knockout win over Rob McCullough. That was such a huge turning point in my life. Rob to me was such a monster. I had seen him fight so many times before I even started fighting. I would watch his fights in King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge. I grew up watching him so I was very intimidated going into that fight, but it was probably my biggest win.
When he will hang up his gloves
You will not see me in the Octagon after the age of 33 years old. I told myself I was going to cap it at 32, and I would like to go out with a win. This is kind of like my last run at a title shot. I am going to fight my heart out, but I have been fighting for so long that the beatings are starting to get old. My body hurts. It is the little things that never really hurt or bugged me before. I never really had to stretch, but now if I don’t warm up or stretch before I train, I wake up the next morning feeling like my body got put into a blender. I am giving myself a few more years and then I will start focusing on some other things. I want to eventually have a family, so I will take steps in that direction. I also opened up a gym in Scottsdale, AZ, so I am going into more of a coaching aspect as opposed to being an athlete.
Possibly working as an analyst for the UFC in the future
That would be great. I would love an opportunity to stay involved in the sport, even if it wasn’t as an analyst. There are a lot of jobs in the UFC that I would not mind doing. With that being said, I would love something like that, but I don’t know if that opportunity will ever come across solely because I wasn’t a UFC world champion. I wasn’t a big name in the organization, but I would welcome it wholeheartedly.