Before jumping into the world of MMA and winning the WEC lightweight belt, Jamie Varner wrestled at Lock Haven University. For his fight this Sunday with interim lightweight champion Ben Henderson, Varner worked on what he knew best, wrestling, working with elite wrestlers Danny Felix and Eric Larkin.
"They helped me with my defense," Varner told Cagewriter. "They really helped me with my counterwrestling, and a lot with my shot. Wrestling was the one thing that I couldn't do when my hand was hurt. I could hit and kick the bag, I could do my cardio, but wrestling and grappling was the one thing I could not do because of my hand. So, I had to go on the fast track as far as getting my wrestling back up to par."
Varner worked on his wrestling because he thinks that's Henderson's biggest strength.
"He's a tough guy. He's pretty well-rounded. I've been training for him to shoot in on me. I'm not really worried about his striking. I think I can count on one hand the punches he threw on his feet in his last fight. I'm more worried about his wrestling."
Though Varner had a well-documented feud with fellow lightweight Donald Cerrone, Varner says it didn't matter to him who he fought to unify the lightweight belts.
"I thought both of which I would beat, and I thought both of which would be good fights for me. I didn't really care. In the back of my mind, I wanted Cowboy to lose, just because I don't like him. I thought it was karma for all the crap he's been talking."
If he gets through this fight with his belt, Varner is up for a rematch with "Cowboy," if Cerrone earns the shot.
"I want to fight whoever the WEC thinks is the number one contender. I think there are about four guys out there that are all deserving, including the Cowboy. Anthony Njokuani is deserving, Dave Jansen, Shane Roller is up there. All four of those guys need to fight, and out of them, come up with a number one contender for me."
Despite the fact that Varner and Henderson have top billing for this fight, Varner knows that Urijah Faber will likely get the loudest cheers in front of his hometown crowd in Sacramento. That doesn't bother Varner.
"Urijah is a big star, and the WEC puts most of their marketing behind him. He's the one who shot the 'No Fear' commercial, got the new Amp'D energy deal. He's got the good press and PR behind him, and Urijah's a likable guy. It's hard for Urijah not to be a star. To even be piggybacked with Urijah is an honor. I asked the WEC to fight on the card with Urijah, because I knew we were going to be healthy at the same time. He's a guy that I look up to. He's a good friend of mine. He's someone I aspire to be like."
Stick with Cagewriter and Yahoo! Sports for coverage of WEC 46, airing live this Sunday on Versus, and Ultimate Fight Night 20, Monday on Spike.