Former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar finally looked set to get a shot at the featherweight title following years of hard graft. Edgar, who had lost a decision victory to then interim-champion Jose Aldo at UFC 200, saw a second scheduled bout with incumbent champ Max Holloway canceled. Doing the honorable thing and agreeing to fight stand-in opponent Brian Ortega saw him knocked out for the first time in his career
For Edgar, it probably means the end of his pursuit of a second UFC title, at least in the featherweight division.
Mark Henry, Edgar’s long-time trainer, claims that the New Jersey-native has taken the defeat in his stride. Henry believes that there was a crucial moment in the bout which changed everything — Ortega’s unorthodox counter elbow which spelled the end for Edgar:
“He didn’t get hit until 4.5 minutes in,” Henry told ESPN. “I thought he was winning the round. Honestly, I was more pumped for this fight than the title. I think he cemented his legacy, taking on anybody, anytime — and beating a young lion would have shut up everyone asking about his age.
“If he was getting tooled or rocked, I would say it. Getting hit with an elbow is different than a punch. It’s a different force. I’ve seen a lot of guys gets knocked out and they can’t remember the fight, asking the same question over and over, wobbly, complaining of a headache. Frankie had none of that.”
Henry believes that the fight may have changed the path of his fighter, with a move to TJ Dillashaw’s bantamweight division a probable option:
“I’ll tell you one thing: I would love to see Frankie fight at 135,” Henry said. “Every time Frankie has fought somebody his own size, he’s done very well.
“I re-watched the fight for the first time this weekend, and all these people had tweeted about how much bigger Brian looked. I watched it and said, ‘Holy cow, he was a lot bigger.’ It’s tough when you’re giving up size, height, and range. Frankie got caught as he overstepped. He paid the price, but that’s what you have to do to compensate for that range. You have to come hard.
“Honestly, I don’t think he’ll move down unless it’s for a title. I think for him, it’s a toughness thing. I’m guessing he looks at it as moving down looks like a weakness. Well, that’s his weight. If Frankie is 15 pounds less than someone on fight night, that’s three weight classes in boxing. That’s a lot.”
“He was going to take the fight regardless of what I told him, but if I had to do it 100 more times, I would tell him to take that fight 100 times,” Henry said. “That’s the way our camp and Frankie are. If you’re not confident in yourself, you should take up a different sport. Fighters that don’t want to take fights make me nervous. I have confidence in Frankie against anybody.”
For Edgar, a move to 135-pounds would definitely present him with a significant chance to beat the reinstated champ Dillashaw. There has been significant talk of a bout between the ‘Snak in the Grass’ and Demetrious Johnson, so it would potentially be of little interest to Dillashaw to agree to fight Edgar. In terms of a spectacle, however, it would certainly pique the interest of UFC fans across the globe.
Bantamweight is far from a weak division by any means. With Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, Jimmie Rivera, Rafael Assuncao, Marlon Moraes and many more vying for the top spot in the division, a victory over Edgar would be a massive scalp by anyone’s consideration. Whether it will be enough for Edgar to find himself working his way through the 135-pound division is another question altogether.
The UFC can certinly count Edgar among the real ‘company men’ of the promotion. As Henry previously stated, his fan-favorite status is owed, in part, to his attitude of fighting anytime, anywhere. Edgar is a warrior, and if there is anyone deserving of a shot at joining the likes of Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Conor McGregor, and Georges St-Pierre in the two-title club, Edgar’s name is firmly around the top of the list, without a doubt.