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Former WEC Lightweight Champ Jamie Varner Released by Zuffa

Before his first hometown fight in nearly five years earlier this month, Jamie Varner told MMA Fighting he was fighting for his life – that a loss to Shane Roller would likely lead to a pink slip from Zuffa.

"I know if I lose this fight, I'm probably going to get cut," Varner said. "I'm fighting for my life, dude. So there's a lot of pressure. But I've got the home-court advantage, so that's one thing I've got working in my favor."

But as Varner was afraid of, after a submission loss to Roller at WEC 53 in his native Phoenix, the former WEC lightweight champion has been released by Zuffa. The news was first reported by the MMA and video game website PunchDrunkGamer, where Varner put out an official statement. A spokesperson at Knock Out Representation, Varner's agency, confirmed his release to MMA Fighting on Tuesday, but declined comment.

The loss was Varner's second straight and kept him winless in four fights in 2010 – 0-3-1, with a draw against Kamal Shalorus. Shalorus was deducted a point in that fight for low blows.

"I am ready for 2011; there will be some changes in my game," Varner said in his statement on the site. "It has been a nice ride with the WEC but its (sic) time for a change. Perhaps UFC will be in my future down the road ..."

Varner, who went 1-1 in the UFC before moving to the WEC in 2007, won the promotion's lightweight title against Rob McCullough at WEC 32. He defended the belt with a win over Marcus Hicks at WEC 35, and again at what would wind up being a controversial split decision over Donald Cerrone at WEC 38 in January 2009. In that bout, Varner couldn't continue due to an illegal knee from Cerrone in the fifth round while Varner was grounded.

Varner missed the rest of 2009 with injuries he sustained in the Cerrone bout. When he returned at WEC 46, it was to unify his lightweight belt with the interim belt held by Ben Henderson, and he lost by guillotine in the third round – his first loss in nearly three and a half years.

After his draw with Shalorus, Varner rekindled his grudge with Cerrone, which had been lingering since their first fight. Cerrone dominated Varner in the standup game and showed improvements in his wrestling as he cruised to a unanimous decision victory. Though both spoke afterward of interest in a quick rubber match to settle things at what would wind up being the last WEC show in history, WEC 53, Varner instead drew Roller and was submitted. Cerrone fought Chris Horodecki and won by submission.

With the merger of the WEC and UFC, the UFC has found itself with a glut of lightweight fighters – the only division that was shared by both promotions. Varner's release will likely be a common story among fighters with losing streaks in the UFC, especially in the lightweight division.

Varner told MMA Fighting before his fight with Roller that because his losses have come against high-level opponents, and because he believes his fights are always exciting, losses shouldn't equal a near-automatic release.

"The way the UFC works. If you lose two, you're pretty much done – and that sucks," Varner told MMA Fighting earlier this month. "I feel that it shouldn't be that way. I feel like if you lose five fights in a row, if they're all exciting fights and you fight your heart out, you deserve your spot in there."

Varner is 16-5-2, including 1-1 in the UFC and 4-3-1 in the WEC.