World Extreme Cagefighting ventures north of the border for the first time ever on June 20 for WEC 49 in Edmonton. The main event is a lightweight fight featuring former champion Jamie Varner and up and coming wrestler Kamal Shalorus.
Varner dropped his lightweight title to current champion Ben Henderson at WEC 46 in January and is looking for another shot at the champ. Shalorus will be stepping inside the cage for the WEC for just the third time after victories over Dave Jansen and Will Kerr. The winner will jump right into the discussion for the next shot at the 155-pound championship.
“Basically it is the reason we put this fight together,” WEC General Manager Reed Harris said. “Both of these guys have been at the top of the food chain at the top of the 155 pound division.”
Varner has been around the block in mixed martial arts even though he is just 25. The veteran has fought six times in the WEC after a two-fight stint with the UFC. He said he was well prepared and focusing on Shalorus, speaking highly of his opponent and comparing their styles.
“I’ve said it a million times, Kamal is the toughest guy you’ve never heard of,” Varner said. “We’re very alike in our skills. He’s definitely the more decorated wrestler, and I feel like I’m the more decorated striker, but when you step in there anything can happen.”
Although Varner may believe the fighters are alike with their in-ring styles, it was obvious the two men are completely different when it comes to talking about said styles.
The reserved Shalorus showed great respect for Varner, saying “It’s an honor for me to fight Jamie, he’s a champion. I love his style of fighting, but I’m super ready for this fight.”
It will be Shalorus’ first time headlining an event near the size of WEC 49. (Harris said he expects 8,000 people in the arena.) The Iranian-born fighter was short in answering why he felt he was ready for this fight and in turn a title shot in the near future.
“For me a fight is a fight,” he said. “I’m ready for any fight. Mentally I’m super ready.”
Varner, on the other hand, had more to say about his past opponents and where he wants to be in the future. He said he’s prepared to move forward with his career by learning from his past mistakes.
“The fight with Ben taught me a huge lesson…” he said. “I’ve always been dedicated to this sport, but I cut out every single distraction that was ever in my life, re-centered my focus and I’m ready to fight.”
He didn’t reserve judgment on his personal feelings for Henderson or the fact that he still believes he should have beaten the champ.
“He thinks he’s a little bit better than he is,” he said. “I just felt like that guy hit the lottery when he caught me in the guillotine.” Henderson finished Varner with the choke midway through the third round of their fight.
“I’m really looking forward to getting through this fight,” he said. “No matter what happens, I just want another shot (at Henderson). The kid always tries to claim like he’s from Arizona; it’s more of a territorial thing. He tries to claim he’s from my home state and the kid’s from Washington, that’s funny.”
Henderson made a comment after defeating Donald Cerrone in April that he wanted to move on to new fights and not deal with any more rematches, specifically mentioning top contender Shane Roller, who Henderson has already beaten in the first round. When asked about the comments, Varner did not hold back.
“I think and know that it’s a little bit of fear,” he said. “Me and Shane both know that if we don’t shoot in on that guy, you don’t give that guy your neck and you win that fight. In my case I don’t think he could take me down. I feel like I’m the much better wrestler, if I just keep that fight on my feet and put the pressure on him he’ll leave. He can run all day and run all night but I’ll at least get that decision victory.”
Varner spent much of the time doing the talking while Shalorus sat patiently and listened. The edge on the microphone clearly goes to Varner, but Sunday night will prove which man has the better skills in the cage.
“I’m strong, I’m a good wrestler, and mentally I’m ready,” Shalorus said. “That’s all."