Jamie Varner had been close before.
As an amateur wrestler, he was the Arizona runner-up in high school and then again nationally at the junior college level.
Wednesday night, he finally broke through in a title fight, winning the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight championship with a third-round knockout of Rob McCullough during a card in Albuquerque, N.M.
“I finally won the big one,” Varner said. “Every time I got to the big match, I seemed to fall short. It still hasn’t hit me.”
Despite his wrestling background, Varner was able to beat McCullough, one of the WEC’s most-feared strikers, at his own game.
He landed several big shots and finally took the title away with a flurry of shots that stopped the former champion.
“I knew I was the better boxer going in,” Varner said. “He has the kicks, but I knew I was a better boxer, so I definitely thought I could take advantage of that.”
The previous championship losses seem to have taken a toll on Varner, who says he put everything he had into this opportunity.
“It was such an emotional roller-coaster ride for me. I laid everything out there,” he said. “I trained five months, my longest training camp ever. Finally, all the pressure and stress was lifted.”
Miguel Torres also became a champion on the card with a submission victory over former bantamweight title-holder Chase Beebe.
Only Carlos Condit, fighting in his hometown, was able to retain his title. The welterweight champion submitted Carlo Prater with a choke in the first round.
The organization will return to Las Vegas to host a card featuring two title fights at the Hard Rock Hotel on March 26.
Middleweight champion Paulo Filho will give Chael Sonnen a rematch, and Doug Marshall will defend his light heavyweight crown against unbeaten Brian Stann.
* COUTURE TO FIGHT–Though it might not be the member of the family they want to see, Las Vegas fans will have the opportunity to see the debut of Kim Couture on Saturday at the Xtreme Couture gym.
Kim, the wife of Randy Couture, will fight a Muay Thai exhibition.
The taped event will then be shown on HDNet on Feb. 29, immediately following the live broadcast of the International Fight League card at the Orleans Arena.
The network will also air the Maximum Fighting Championship card from Edmonton, Canada on Friday night and the Strikeforce card featuring Bob Sapp from Tacoma, Wash. on Saturday.
* KIMBO WINS AGAIN–Internet street-fighting legend Kimbo Slice thrilled his hometown fans in Miami, taking just 43 seconds to knock out Tank Abbott on an EliteXC card on Showtime on Saturday night.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 224-5509.