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From Iran to Edmonton, Shalorus comes to Canada with WEC title shot on the line

From Iran to Turkey and Britain to the U.S., Kamal (The Prince of Persia) Shalorus now finds himself in Edmonton one win away from a title shot.

From Iran to Turkey and Britain to the U.S., Kamal (The Prince of Persia) Shalorus now finds himself in Edmonton one win away from a title shot.

The Iranian-born mixed martial arts fighter takes on former lightweight champion Jamie Varner at Rexall Place on Sunday (The Score, 9 p.m. ET) in World Extreme Cagefighting's first foray outside of the United States. The winner gets a shot at Ben Henderson, who beat Varner in January in a 155-pound title unification bout.

An accomplished amateur wrestler with good power in his hands, Shalorus (6-0-1) did not make his pro MMA debut until April 2008. But Varner (16-3-2 with two no contests) knows all about him.

"I said it a million times, Kamal is the toughest guy you never heard of," Varner said on a media conference call.

"And we're very alike in our skills. He's definitely a much more decorated wrestler. I feel like I'm the much more decorated striker . . . but when you get in there, anything can happen. I mean all it takes is one mistake. And, you know, Kamal is definitely the type of fighter that could expose one mistake with big punches, strong powerful takedowns. Anything can happen.

"But I feel like this is my toughest fight just because the styles were so similar. And I've never fought a wrestler as good as Kamal."

Shalorus has won both his fights in the WEC but remains a bit of a mystery. For example, his passport lists his age at 37 but he concedes he doesn't really know how old he is.

He never had a birth certificate, but says he is "for sure, 100 per cent" younger than 37.

"Because I have a brother who's four years older than me. But in my passport I'm older than him (by) two years."

Thanks to a former girlfriend he met in London, Shalorus ended up in Austin, Texas, some 3 1/2 years ago. He holds dual Iranian and British citizenship, as well as a U.S. green card.

Shalorus got his first taste of MMA in England when he trained with some fighters. "I was getting bored," he said of wrestling.

It didn't take him long to be drawn into MMA.

"I saw I could be good, I could be a champion . . . I want to reach my destiny and nobody is going to stop me."

He's already come a long way.

Shalorus grew up in a small mountain town in northern Iran near the Russian border. Home for Shalorus, his two brothers and three sisters was a small farm although his father used to leave during the winters to work construction.

His father and brother were wrestlers and the sport was front and centre at the Shalorus home.

"We'd work (on the farm) and then come back home, eat together. We didn't have a TV so we had to do something, so my father said 'OK kids, go ahead (and) wrestle.' A very happy family."'

Shalorus also grew up hunting. Bullets were prized possessions, so only the most accurate marksman got their hands on the gun. Shalorus, who still hunts today, says he was a decent shot when it came to going after wild goat.

Shalorus began to work his way through the national wrestling ranks and got a chance to train outside of Iran. He liked what he saw and eventually opted to move to Turkey, against the wishes of his father.

But his mother helped him with her savings.

"She helped me a lot," he said. "She said 'Do whatever you want. You have to try it. Now.'"

He was 18 when he decided to move to Turkey, moving later to England where he continued his wrestling career under the British flag. From there it was on to the U.S.

While he loves Austin — although the girlfriend who led him there is no longer in the picture — Shalorus misses his family and beginnings in Iran.

His father passed away six years ago, but his mother remains in the same house. Shalorus has visited her regularly and plans to go back again after this fight.

"I miss family, friends, all the mountains. Everything," he said. "All the animals, all the trees. I miss everything. It's something different. You were born there."

The 25-year-old Varner, meanwhile, says he has been able to focus fully on Shalorus in the leadup to this fight, unlike his last bout.

"I had a lot of personal things going on in my life. And I don't want to like use them as excuses. Just to give you one example, my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer a few months before my fight with Ben Henderson.

"Anybody who knows me on a personal basis my mom is like my rock. She's like the most important person in my life to me. And so that was kind of rough to deal with."

It's clear Varner still has unfinished business with Henderson.

"I just really felt like that guy hit the lottery when he got me in that guillotine (choke) to be honest with you," he said.

Also on the WEC 49 card Sunday, featherweight Mark (The Machine) Hominick of Thamesford, Ont., takes on Yves (Tiger) Jabouin of Montreal, while lightweight Chris (The Polish Hammer) Horodecki of London, Ont., meets American Dan Downes.

Brazilian Renan Barao faces off against Anthony Leone in a battle of WEC bantamweight debutantes. There is some buzz about Barao (25-1 with one no contest), who has not lost since April 2005.

"If you go down his record, he has finished guys in all sorts of ways, from kneebars, to ankle locks, to knees, kimuras, to punches, etc.," WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby said in an email.

Featherweight Josh Grispi, who finished his three previous WEC fights in a combined time of four minutes 18 seconds, takes on L.C. Davis.

NOTES— Rexall Place is being configured for a potential crowd of about 8,000 for the fight card, which follows UFC 115 in Vancouver last Saturday. ... The Edmonton card is sandwiched between two big WEC events, its first pay-per-view in April in Sacramento and WEC 50 in August in Las Vegas which will feature bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz against Joseph Benavidez, and former featherweight title-holder Urijah Faber making his 135-pound debut against Takeya Mizugaki.

 
 
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