Frankie Edgar (top) | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
One might assume that becoming world champion of arguably the deepest weight class in the sport’s most prominent mixed martial arts organization would lead to fortune and fame.
Well, UFC lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar has started to make some meaningful coin at his craft, but he remains the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA.
He has fought professionally for more than five years, climbing into the cage on 14 different occasions. Only once did he leave it without his hand raised. In that span, the Toms River, N.J., native has toppled Tyson Griffin, Mark Bocek, Spencer Fisher, Jim Miller and former world champions Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn (twice). In his latest bout, a rematch with the popular Penn, Edgar put together a thoroughly dominant performance at UFC 118, as he took all five rounds from the Hawaiian at the TD Garden in Boston.
However, some still refuse to buy into Edgar fully, and his first victory over Penn, a controversial decision in the United Arab Emirates, remains a source of controversy. Plus, many critics point to his lopsided loss to Maynard, a three-time collegiate All-American wrestler who has faced similar questions about his status as one of the world’s top lightweights. Edgar shrugs at the barbs thrown his way.
“It’s because I’m adorable and most people can’t get over the fact that I am adorable,” he says. “No, seriously, I don’t know what it is. I guess I’m a small dude in the division and it’s easy to overlook me. Same with Gray; nobody really talks about us. It’s like everybody was so scared of B.J. Nobody ever talked bad about him and nobody ever really called him out. Now that I took over his position, I’m an easier target, I guess. I don’t know.”
Edgar, a winner of five consecutive fights, has grown accustomed to being written off.
He will enter his rematch with the unbeaten Maynard as an underdog at UFC 125 “Resolution” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “The Bully” took a unanimous decision from Edgar at UFC Fight Night 13 in April 2008.
“Honestly, I’m just so used to that stuff that it really doesn’t make me feel anything,” Edgar says with an apathetic tone. “And to be real, Gray does hold that win over me so it’s natural for people to think I’m just holding [the title] for him. But that fight was a long time ago. We both have gotten so much better, and we are both totally different fighters. My time will come. Eventually I’ll get the respect and praise that I deserve.”
Edgar has thrived in the role of the underdog throughout his career. Though he would welcome newfound respect, he does not feel it necessary for justification.
“I don’t really need the respect of the media or these experts,” Edgar says. “As long as I have the respect of my teammates, my family and other fighters, that’s all I need; my fans, too. I have some really great fans out there who really understand the sport and support me. I have the best fans in the world. But no matter, I’m not going to change as a person or a fighter if that does [happen].”
If Edgar plans to ascend further, he must first deal with Maynard. Overwhelmed by his challenger’s wrestling ability in their first encounter, Edgar expects their rematch to take on a different tone.
“Oh, this is going to be an amazing fight,” he says. “I know most people look at our fight and think that it wasn’t the most action-packed fight, but with this, we are so much better, and it’s for the title. I think people are going to see the best out of us. I am a true mixed martial artist and so is Gray. It’s going to be one hell of a fight.
“I don’t really know how it will go,” he adds. “He’s really strong, and I’m sure he’ll be looking for the takedown, but he’s willing to stand now so I’m sure we’ll trade on our feet. You know I’ll be looking for takedowns, he’ll be looking for takedowns and I just need to make sure that I don’t lose rounds with him on top of me.”
Edgar, who trains alongside former middleweight King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida, does not believe he could have mapped out his career path any better.
“It is a great thing for me,” he says, “a golden opportunity to be able to defend my title against the guy who beat me.”