On the heels of a somewhat controversial interview Cerrone delivered on Tapout Radio last week in which the Greg Jackson-trained fighter called his opponent a “fag” and hoped he’d be “the first death in MMA,” both fighters were on their best behavior.
After Cerrone had apologized the next day via his Twitter account and the WEC posted it’s own message shortly afterward condemning the lightweight contender’s choice of words, only Varner had yet to comment on what had been said about him. On Tuesday, Varner let it all roll off his back.
“I feel like I don’t need to get caught up in all the name-calling and all the bantering back and forth,” said the former WEC lightweight champion. “(On) September 30, we get to go out there, we get to settle our differences and hopefully we walk out of the cage and the beef is squashed. Or, you know what? Maybe the animosity continues, but nevertheless, I’m not going to concern myself with it anymore.”
The 25-year-old Varner, who said his personal life was re-shaped shortly after the first bout with Cerrone when he found out his mother had cervical cancer, seemed much more intent on focusing on the January 2009 bout that ended in controversy. Varner, who’d broken his hand in the second round, was attempting to rise to his feet when Cerrone threw an illegal knee to the Arizona fighter’s temple in the final frame. When Varner complained of double vision, the bout was promptly stopped. Varner was awarded the victory by a rare technical split decision.
Varner said he believed it was Cerrone, 27, who sparked what would become a back-and-forth exchange of insults between the pair over the next 21 months.
“I felt that this animosity and this beef since this first fight has kind of catapulted his career,” said Varner, who drew with Kamal Shalorus in his last performance at WEC 49 last June. “He feels like I looked for the easy way out (in the first fight) when it was the doctor who stopped the fight. I want to clear the air.”
Despite laying the blame on his opponent for fueling a war of the words he no longer wanted any part of, Varner said he wished Cerrone no ill-will in their pending rematch. Varner also acknowledged his rival’s improved talents since their last meeting.
“I would definitely have to say that his jiu-jitsu game off his back has gotten a lot better,” said Varner. “I wasn’t so concerned about his jiu-jitsu the first time we fought, but now there’s a definite concern. He’s added a couple of new submissions I didn’t see before or wasn’t too worried about in the first fight.
“I see this as a fight where if he makes a mistake, hopefully I can catch him, but if not, it’s gonna be a three-round war,” added Varner. “I think my wrestling and speed will be the difference in this fight, just like it was in the last one.”