Frankie Edgar is looking forward to 2012. | Photo: Sherdog.com
With the end of every year comes award season. Each media outlet will dish out its own slew of honors for a bevy of categories, including "Fight of the Year," "Knockout of the Year" and "Submission of the Year."
That list, which is highlighted by "Fighter of the Year," is not something to which UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar currently devotes much attention.
“It’s something in the future -- it’ll be nice to have those accomplishments under my name, but that’s not the focus,” Edgar told Sherdog.com while working the corner for Chris Liguori at Cage Fury Fighting Championships 12 on Dec. 10. “The focus is obviously the next fight and becoming a better fighter.”
The year for Edgar was highlighted by the completion of his trilogy with Gray Maynard. A draw and a knockout victory in the two fights saw Edgar leave 2011 as he entered it, as lightweight champion. One thing Edgar is leaving behind in 2012 is the talk of a fourth fight with Maynard.
“Right now I’ve got the fight scheduled with Ben Henderson, and that’s the only guy on my mind,” Edgar stated. “The fights were great with Gray. They brought a lot out of me and matured me as a fighter and as a competitor. I’ve just got to move forward.”
His meeting with "Smooth" at UFC 144 marks the promotion's first foray to Japan. Edgar is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the main attraction on that card.
“It’s an honor,” Edgar said. “Japan is the birthplace of martial arts. We’re there for the first time under the Zuffa banner. I feel like I’m almost an ambassador of the sport, and I get to travel the world and fight. Ten years down the line it’s going to be nice. I’m going to have good memories for myself.”
The UFC 144 headliner is also adjusting to life in front of the camera. With the UFC continuing to expand both with live events and on television, the need to develop more stars continues to grow. Edgar has been one of those fighters to step up and embrace the opportunity.
“The title also helps the publicity and all that,” Edgar added. “The exposure of the sport also helps. We’re on Fox now and every weight class is getting more attention. It’s nice. We want to get recognized for what we do. The more attention I get in my weight class means the more attention we’re getting across the whole sport. It’s good for everybody.”
It does, however, open fighters up to more scrutiny in a way previously unseen in MMA. Former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres was recently released from the UFC following comments he made on Twitter. Rashad Evans took some heat following comments made at a prefight press conference while referencing the ongoing Penn State scandal.
“I guess I’m kind of in the middle,” Edgar said when asked about for his reaction to those incidents. “If we all heard those comments among each other, in the gym between friends, you’d laugh. It’s funny. Out in the public where everyone can hear it? Obviously it’s a touchy subject. You can’t really say relax because we are held at a higher standard. If a football or baseball player did that they’re going to be held to a higher standard, and I think we should be as well.”
As for his next title defense, Edgar mentioned he would finish his camp in Japan, getting there about two weeks out to adjust. There are no specifics to prepare for Henderson yet, but the game plan remains the same, regardless of opponent.
“The biggest concern is always losing,” Edgar stated. “You just have to make sure you make the right decisions come game time. I know I’m going to prepare. I always prepare for every fight. I have a great team behind me and they’re going to get me 100 percent ready for what I need to do. But it’s about applying it and making sure I make the decisions at the right time. You don’t always have to be the best fighter, but you have to be the best fighter for 25 minutes.”
After such a memorable 2011, Edgar knows it will be difficult to provide an encore in the coming year.
“I don’t know if I could top what I did,” Edgar said. “I know that I could put on better performances for myself. For the fans that’s pretty exciting to get beat up and come back. I like to make it exciting for the fans but I like to spare my body a little bit more. I just want to improve and become a better fighter every day. If I do that I’ll be happy.”