Frankie Edgar Is Back on the Campaign Trail

Fightland Blog

By Dan Shapiro

Photos by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

The autumn of 2012 was the unseasonably cold in the Edgar household.

Patriarch Frankie had just come up short in his bid to reclaim the UFC lightweight belt he lost to Benson Henderson just six months earlier. Mired in the first losing streak of his MMA career, Edgar was reaching a low point emotionally, when his in-laws were forced from their home after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey’s eastern shoreline.

With his wife’s parents taking refuge inside Edgar’s Tom’s River residence, Frankie left the weight class he ruled for a little less than two years, cutting down to featherweight for a bout with champion José Aldo. The move did little to change Edgar’s luck, as Frankie lost a close decision to the champ, pushing his skid to three bouts.

“It was upsetting, it was … depressing. I lost three fights in a row to the best guys in the world. They were all very close,” recollects Edgar. “If I wanted to I could’ve packed it in. But I’m not the guy to pack it in.”

Reflecting on the most challenging era of his ten-years in the mixed martial arts game, Edgar is clearly un-phased by the experience of dropping three straight contests. Suited up and well-coiffed, he’s currently riding a three-fight win streak and hot on the press trail to promote his upcoming May 16 superfight with former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber, a bout that will mark the UFC’s foray into the Filipino market.

But after the Aldo loss in early 2013, it was unclear if Edgar would ever return to championship form.

Beginning his pursuit of yet a second UFC belt in mid 2013, an undeterred Edgar took a decision over Charles Oliveira at UFC 162. And just as it appeared that Edgar would quickly rise up the divisional ranks to earn a second crack at Aldo, the UFC put his career on hold, slating him for a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter.

At 31-years-old, in the midst of his physical prime, Frankie Edgar spent an entire year caught in his tracks, waiting for a July 2014 trilogy fight with B.J. Penn, despite already collecting a pair of wins over the former two-division kingpin.

“I used it as a positive and motivated myself,” offers Edgar. “I wanted to get back to the title, and here I am, three fights in a row, two finishes, one over the number two guy in my weight class … so sometimes the lows help you with the highs.”

Immediately following his reality TV appearance on TUF, Edgar stormed through Penn in less than three rounds, delivering his most dominant performance in years. Four months later, in November 2014, Edgar would submit Cub Swanson in Austin, Texas, putting on a wrestling and boxing clinic during the five-round affair.

Edgar’s win over Swanson went down as the latest submission in UFC history, and soon many were calling for an Edgar-Aldo rematch.

But it was not meant to be …

With a featherweight title shot granted to upstart Conor McGregor, Edgar once again found himself in divisional purgatory. Not only had Edgar just finished Swanson, but Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas, a pair of top-five 145 pounders with decision losses to Aldo, were already partnered up, leaving no reasonable options. At best Edgar would face Dennis Bermudez in a rather lackluster matchup.

Then, out of thin air, Urijah Faber entered the frame, and a new superfight was born.

Two of mixed martial arts’ more recognizable lighter-weight competitors, Edgar and Faber were slated for a May 2015 date in Manila of all places, pegged as the tentpole for the UFC’s Philippines’ debut. And leading up to the bout at the Mall of Asia Arena, Edgar has been pushed back out into the promotional limelight.

“We’re pretty even across the board. We come from a wrestling background. We have similar styles,” comments Edgar. “He does very well catching guys in submissions. But I think he hasn’t fought someone like me yet. My foot’s gonna be on that gas pedal. And I know he likes to fight at a pretty high pace, but I don’t know if he’s fought a pace that I like to fight at.”

The comments echo Edgar’s inner strength and belief in himself, feelings and faith that he never lost during that dark stretch from late 2012 through early 2013. But it is perhaps Edgar’s continued focus on MMA, the sport, and the fundamental aspects of the fight, rather than histrionics, that may have hurt his immediate title aspirations.

Currently ranked as the UFC’s number-two featherweight contender, Edgar was passed over for a crack at the belt in favor Conor McGregor, who sits at number three in the standings. And while McGregor has worked his way up as a legitimate contender, there is no doubt that his jump up the ladder has been fast tracked on account of some tremendous trash talk and mud slinging, tactics that Edgar has never subscribed to.

But as he travels from city to city, promoting his bout with Faber as part of the UFC’s “Welcome to the Show” campaign, Edgar is taking cues from fellow New Jersey native, Governor Chris Christie, who has presidential aspirations in 2016.

“I like Christie. I like the way he handled the Sandy storm. I thought he definitely backed us that way,” offers Edgar. “He’s kind of an in your face guy. He’s a Jersey guy, you can tell. In his speeches he doesn’t take any crap … we’re Jersey, we’re resilient.”

And like Christie, Edgar is becoming more vocal, pushing his pursuit of a second UFC championship, even going so far as to say that he wouldn’t eventually rule out a three-division reign, eying T.J. Dillashaw’s bantamweight title.

But, for now, Edgar remains focused on Faber and a run at the featherweight belt, taking a few pointers from Christie to push his agenda forward, even learning from the Governor’s previous campaign errors, like cavorting with Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.

“That’s one of the reason’s Jersey’s not gonna vote for him.”


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Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber are Going to Manila

Edgar vs. Swanson: Wrestling Is the Answer

What Is the Sell-by Date on Frankie Edgar's Durability?