March 27, 2013 marked Jamie Varner's 10th anniversary since he began fighting MMA, and with his recent rejuvenation in the UFC he's not stopping until he gets back into the title race.
It's been a long, strange ride for Varner since 2003 when he started in MMA. He reached the heights of the UFC just three years into his career and then stepped to the next plateau when he became the WEC lightweight champion.
Varner suffered some career setbacks between 2010 and 2011 and actually contemplated retirement, but after a blistering knockout over top prospect Edson Barboza on short notice to return to the UFC, he's back on track.
Following his win over Melvin Guillard at UFC 155, Varner was forced to take some time off after suffering two torn ligaments in his thumb. While he avoided surgery, he was pushed out of action for the better part of two months waiting for the injury to heal.
Just recently, however, Varner got a clearance from his doctor to return to the cage, and now he's just waiting on the call from the UFC to give him a date and an opponent.
"I think I could be ready by April, but May is playing it safe. May would be a lot more comfortable so I don't have to rush into training and potentially get hurt," Varner told Bleacher Report recently.
While he's awaiting his return to the cage, Varner isn't slowing down his physical activities as he's planning to participate in the Spartan Race on April 6 in Las Vegas. Spartan Race is an advanced obstacle course than in this case will span about eight miles over various terrain.
Following Spartan Race, Varner's focus turns solely back on fighting, and his goal is to face the absolute best the lightweight division has to offer.
"I fought a lot of dangerous guys. (Joe) Lauzon was a great opportunity, obviously he was my last loss, and I want that back, but I want to fight anybody in the top ten. I was hoping to get a chance at Rafael Dos Anjos or even T.J. Grant, but I just want to fight one of the best. I want to fight whoever's at the top," said Varner.
"I want to start making my campaign towards the title."
The possibility of fighting for the title is an interesting situation for Varner because since his recent return to the UFC, he's been working alongside UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at his home camp in Arizona. Not to mention, Henderson actually beat Varner to win the WEC title back in 2010.
Now the two fighters have become close friends and teammates, but nothing is going to derail Varner on his mission to get to the top.
"Ever since I kind of re-adjusted my mindset, I don't say no to fights. If you want to be the best you've got to fight everybody," Varner stated. "That's what I want to do. I want to fight the best. Whether he's ranked ninth in the world or he's ranked second in the world, I want to fight anybody in the top ten. I don't care if they're coming off a knockout of the year or fight of the year, I want the fights that are going to get me to the title."
There is no clear road to a title shot and it could happen in two fights or it could be five wins away. Whatever it takes, Varner is willing to do it, but he's ready to fight the best of the best in his division because he knows as well as anybody that will certainly speed up the process.
"I want the most expedited path towards that title shot," said Varner. "That's only by fighting the best guys and the guys that no one else wants to fight."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.