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Varner Riles 'The Cowboy'

COURTESY WEC Donald Cerrone, left, will take on James Krause at WEC 41 today but is still fuming over comments made by previous opponent Jamie Varner (not pictured).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cerrone is up against a new opponent at WEC 41


Donald Cerrone is fired up.

Fired up because he’s fighting at WEC 41 tonight on the undercard of Faber-Brown II at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif.


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Fired up because Jamie Varner is going to be there.

And when the Cowboy, who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, sees Varner, the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champ …

“I might just punch him in the mouth. Some of the things he says are out of line.”

There’s just one problem: James Krause, not Varner, will be Cerrone’s opponent.

To understand the animosity, you had to see Varner-Cerrone I, which was held inside an octagon – not backstage – in January. Varner, who was ahead on points four-plus rounds into the fight, took a glancing knee to the side of the head while getting to his feet.

Kneeing a downed opponent is illegal in mixed-martial arts, but the penalty usually ranges anywhere from a referee warning to a one-point deduction. In this case, Cerrone’s knee caused Varner’s vision to blur to the point that he couldn’t continue. The fight was scored where it ended, helping the lightweight champ retain his title by split decision.

Cerrone remains skeptical. His strong performance late in the fight makes him think Varner was looking for a way out.

“Only he knows how he felt,” the Cowboy said. “He came up with a lot of excuses. … By losing I kind of won in the fans’ eyes with my performance.”


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Talk like that has Varner a little peeved.

“He didn’t handle himself like a gentleman,” the Arizona Combat Sports fighter said. “You win like a man, you lose like a man. He had an opportunity to win. I was the best man that night.”

But it was a threat Varner made that caused Cerrone’s blood to boil.

“He’s saying I don’t deserve a shot with him again. He says I’m not at his level,” Cerrone said. “He says he’s gonna take my hat and give it back to the TapouT guys.”

While it’s cliche to say you don’t take a cowboy’s hat – you don’t threaten to take the Cowboy’s hat either.

Varner suffered a laundry list of injuries in the first fight that have limited his training and put a rematch on hold until at least the fall. They include:

  • A broken foot that had him in a protective boot for about a month.
  • A lesion (broken blood vessel) in his eye from the illegal knee. Varner said his vision was blurred for about six weeks.
  • And most troublesome, a broken hand that required two reconstructive surgeries, two pins, screws and a plate to repair.

“I’m looking forward to being healthy again,” he said, adding that he’s aiming for a September return.

Cerrone decided he couldn’t wait that long. After all, this is a guy trainer Greg Jackson has to kick out of the gym to take a break from training.

The risk of fighting now is that, should Cerrone lose, he might not be first in line for another shot at Varner’s title.

“Hell yeah, it’s a risky fight,” he said. “I’m taking a fight that I don’t know too much about.”

Krause (10-0) is making his WEC debut and has won eight of his 10 fights via submission. Only one opponent has made it past the first round against him.

“He loves triangle chokes,” Jackson said.

Krause’s strength appears to be Cerrone’s weakness. The Cowboy is a well-versed Muay Thai striker with a kickboxing background. His wrestling is still a work in progress.

“I’m trying not to get taken down at will,” he said.

Still, it’s hard not to view this fight as a steppingstone for the Cowboy – a chance to keep sharp until Varner heals.

Even Jackson thinks Varner “certainly could have continued” in the first fight.

Varner welcomes a rematch.

“I fought four rounds with one hand,” he said. “People want to see it – they didn’t like the way it ended.”

But will it come earlier than expected, somewhere in the bowels of Arco Arena, before Cerrone’s official fight?

When pressed, the Cowboy relents, if only a little.

“If I do see him, I’m gonna get in his face, and something is going to happen. I don’t know if I’m going to knock him out,” he said.


WEC 41: at ARCO Arena, Sacramento, Calif. Urijah Faber vs. Mike Brown, Donald Cerrone vs. James Krause and others
Versus, 7 p.m.