mma / Columns

Frankie Edgar Gets His Last Chance

May 20, 2019 | Posted by Dan Plunkett

One of the dumbest things I’ve ever written was published in the aftermath of UFC 98, which took place ten years ago this week. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve written many, many dumb things over the last ten-plus years, but this is one of the ones that sticks with me.

At that show, Frankie Edgar, a too-small-to-be-elite lightweight that had been bullied by Gray Maynard, upset former lightweight champion Sean Sherk. Sherk closed as a 4-to-1 betting favorite; not many had expected Edgar to pull out the victory. At the time, I considered the outcome a result of Sherk falling in love with his kickboxing, and wrote something to the effect of: ”Sherk has now lost only to Matt Hughes, Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, and Frankie Edgar. One of those names isn’t like the others.” This was technically true at the time, but oh how bad it looks in hindsight. I should not have been so quick to judge.

Sherk, who retired one fight after the Edgar bout, can now say that he only ever lost to Hall of Fame talent. Over time, Frankie Edgar would prove that much like Hughes, St-Pierre, and Penn, he was one of the best to ever do it.

Last week, the UFC announced that Frankie Edgar would get another opportunity to add to his legend. The too-small-to-be-elite lightweight did indeed become elite, and in fact became champion. But since moving down to the featherweight class, a weight that figured to fit him better than lightweight, gold has eluded him. At 37, Edgar’s window is nearly closed, but it remains open enough for him to challenge Max Holloway for the featherweight title on July 27.

Despite key losses and hardships with injuries, Edgar has managed to keep himself in the title picture at lightweight or featherweight consistently for the past 10 years. His first title shot was not without controversy. First, he received the title shot over Gray Maynard, who many felt was more deserving, a feeling boosted by the fact that he defeated Edgar in 2008. Then, he got the judges’ nod over BJ Penn, a decision many felt he didn’t deserve. When the UFC booked an immediate rematch, Edgar left no such controversy. He beat Penn so soundly that the lightweight great went back up to the welterweight division as he considered his next move.

Of course, Edgar’s title reign couldn’t proceed smoothly. He met up with Maynard for his second title defense, and Maynard walloped him and beat him around the cage for the opening five minutes. The fight could have been justifiably stopped on a couple of occasions, and it’s still a wonder how Edgar recovered from that round. But recover he did, and he went on to earn a hard-fought draw in one of the best fights of 2011. An immediate rematch saw Edgar in early trouble again, but this time he bounced back more quickly and stopped Maynard—and the rivalry—in the fourth round.

Edgar tried for his fourth title defense against Benson Henderson, but fell just short in a close decision. Perhaps inspired by Edgar’s willingness to give his opponents rematches, the UFC slotted him right back in there against Henderson. Most viewers saw the rematch for Edgar, but two judges scored it for Henderson.

Two losses to the lightweight champion had Edgar looking elsewhere. When a spot opened to challenge featherweight champion Jose Aldo in October 2012, Edgar jumped at the chance. The fight was delayed until February 2013, but when it occurred, it was a true superfight in the sporting sense. Here was the longtime featherweight champion going against who many felt was the rightful lightweight champion, and the thinking was Edgar’s frame was better suited for success at featherweight.

It was a competitive contest, but Aldo was the clear winner of the decision. Edgar remained at featherweight and looked to build himself back to a title shot. He took out Charles Oliviera, Penn (yes, for some reason they made them fight again, as if the extra years had benefitted Penn), Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, Jeremy Stephens, and Yair Rodriguez. In the middle of that run Edgar fell again to Aldo in a title match, this time even more decisively.

The Rodriguez win secured Edgar another title shot, but it would be against a new champion. Max Holloway pounded out Jose Aldo to take the title in June 2017, and the bout between Holloway and Edgar was slated for December 2017. A month before the fight, Edgar broke his orbital bone in training and had to withdraw. They rescheduled for March 2018, but this time it was Holloway who fell out of the fight. Edgar stayed on the card against Brian Ortega, putting his top contender status on the line. Ortega shocked Edgar, who had withstood so much and never been finished, and knocked him out in the first round.

Edgar rebounded quickly, taking a decision from Cub Swanson the very next month, but he hasn’t fought since. Assuming all goes to plan this time around, his fight with Holloway in July will be Edgar’s first bout in 15 months. That is Edgar’s longest wait between fights since his pro debut in 2005.

In July, Edgar will have an opportunity to add his name to the short list of fighters that have won titles in two different weight classes. It’s easy to count him out—there’s his age, his time off, and Holloway’s ability, but Edgar has defied odds before in his Hall of Fame career.

Dan Plunkett has covered MMA for 411Mania since 2008. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Dan_Plunkett.

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Frankie Edgar, Dan Plunkett