UFC 240 Fighter Profile: Frankie Edgar

UFC 240 Fighter Profile: Frankie Edgar

By Ross Markey

Saturday night’s main event against Max Holloway at UFC 240 marks the eight championship clash New Jersey native Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar has featured in, a homage to the talent of the 37-year-old.

Former lightweight best Edgar looks to finally add the featherweight title to his trophy cabinet, in a much-anticipated meeting with reigning 145-pound king, Max Holloway. Failing to meet Holloway at both UFC 218 and UFC 222, Edgar and Max both tipped the scales to make it third time lucky, with Aussie contender Alexander Volkanovski waiting in the wings.

With a career spanning an incredible fourteen years, it is a testament to Edgar’s ability that he still finds himself competing with the very best the UFC has to offer. A shoo-in for a Hall of Fame induction upon his eventual retirement, Edgar faces a Max Holloway who returns to featherweight with his tail between his legs, after an unsuccessful lightweight rematch with Dustin Poirier. A victory against somebody as primed and talented as Holloway at this stage is quite the task, but the stylistic match up this meeting presents is all too interesting to consider it a foregone conclusion.

Edgar is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and recognizable figures in MMA, whether that be for his championship doubleheader with Gray Maynard, triumphs over B.J. Penn or simply his run to the Octagon to the chorus of Kick In The Door by The Notorious B.I.G. Take a look below at Edgar’s journey from the Underground Combat League in 2005, to the curtain closer at Rogers Place this weekend.

The Regional Circuit:

Edgar’s exploits during the opening three years of his professional career all came within his home state of New Jersey. Six consecutive victories including a decision win over fellow future UFC Hall of Fame inductee Jim Miller, fast-tracked the all-important Ultimate Fighting Championship call as the undisputed Reality Fighting 155-pound champion.

Early Days:

Despite initially and unsuccessfully auditioning for The Ultimate Fighter, Edgar eventually made his Octagon bow, against a fellow future lightweight contender, Tyson Griffin. Griffin was 1-0 in the promotion at the time of the pairing, but had overcome the likes of Duane Ludwig and recent returnee Urijah Faber during his path to the organization. Edgar scored a unanimous decision over the three-round affair, notably surviving a kneebar attempt from Griffin late on.

Just five months later, the Ricardo Almeida BJJ product had his second walk to the Octagon. Facing grappling expert Mark Bocek at UFC 73, Edgar claimed his premier promotional knockout, coming with just five seconds remaining in the opening round. Making it three fights in a single year, Edgar earned a place on the UFC 76 card in December, going the distance once more, this time against Spencer Fisher in a successful performance.

The first bout of the Gray Maynard trilogy came the following year, along with ‘The Answer{s}’ first professional blemish. Displaying his own wrestling masterclass throughout, TUF alumni Maynard picked up a unanimous decision. Hermes Franca was brushed aside by Edgar, before a showdown, his most high profile yet, against former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk.

Edgar displayed a higher volume of strikes throughout each round against Sherk, and despite both men landing a single takedown, the New Jersey native picked up the victory on all judges scorecards. Striking was the name of the game for Edgar once more against Matt Veach, setting up an eventual rear-naked choke victory with some damaging stand-up.

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UFC Lightweight Champion:

Edgar’s impressive storming of the 155-pound division earned him a championship challenge against B.J. Penn. Headlining UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, Edgar entered the contest as a severe underdog, given ‘The Prodigy{s}’ recent exploits. Penn had dispatched both Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian after a return from welterweight ahead of the meeting with Edgar. In quite the contentious decision, Edgar dethroned Penn to many’s surprize, soundly beating Penn on all three judges scorecards. A rematch with Penn was scheduled for UFC 218 later that year, this time in Las Vegas. Both a striking and wrestling clinic proved the difference this time out for Edgar who looked much more comfortable in the rematch, again beating Penn, and this time, retaining his championship.

Gray Maynard’s Challenge:

Gray Maynard’s rematch and the subsequent rubber match with Frankie Edgar will undeniably stand the test of time as one of the most memorable trilogies in MMA antiquity. Edgar was destined to rekindle his rivalry with Maynard after the Arizona native overcame Kenny Florian, this time with the lightweight championship up for grabs. Maynard scored three separate knockdowns in the premier round, hurting Edgar badly.

A resilient Edgar somehow battled and survived to see the final buzzer. A split draw was announced by Bruce Buffer, with one referee scoring the bout in favor of Maynard, one in favor of an Edgar retention and the final scored a 47-47 draw. UFC 125 was billed as Resolution. When the curtain closed on the night, a resolution was yet to be established. Back to the drawing board.

A third and hopefully deciding clash was announced after Edgar was originally promoted to face then WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Shockingly, the opening round of the rubber match was all too similar for Edgar, again struggling with the striking of the bigger Maynard. Rallying once again, Edgar this time secured bragging rights, leaving no doubts. A fourth-round knockout victory for the Tom’s River born Edgar tacked another title defense.

Championship Controversy:

Granted, Edgar’s victory over Penn in the first matchup was contentious in many people’s opinion, but his second title loss to Bensen ‘Smooth’ Henderson was certainly controversial. At UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan, Henderson displayed some eye-catching wrestling and measured striking to knock Edgar off his perch, but just six months later, this time in Colorado, Edgar pushed Henderson to his limit over a five-round main event.

In a bout which a considerable number scored in Edgar’s favor, only one judge at Octagon side agreed, with Henderson retaining via a narrow split decision. Edgar had lost two on the bounce and was weighing up his options, in the form of a new weight class.

Featherweight Rebirth:

Edgar was relatively undersized for lightweight despite his incredible escapades and decided to test his skills a division lower at 145 pounds. Immediately, Edgar was thrown into title contention, in a division still owned by Brazilian kingpin José Aldo. Aldo vs. Edgar eventually came to fruition at UFC 156, with Aldo remaining undefeated in the promotion with a unanimous decision, Fight of the Night display. A third successive loss for Edgar put his future in the promotion on skids.

Paired with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu submission stand out Charles Oliveira, Edgar avoided any grappling predicaments to end his losing streak, claiming his own unanimous decision triumph. Former championship foe B.J. Penn also made the drop to featherweight, with both men clashing for a third and final time. After starring as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, Edgar this time finished Penn via strikes in the third round trilogy ending bout. Edgar began a siege of the featherweight throne, dispatching Cub Swanson with a late neck crank submission in their main event meeting, before a dream match up with the aforementioned Urijah Faber. Taking a five-round unanimous decision victory over the Californian, Edgar installed himself into a clear title picture.

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José Aldo would defend his undisputed crown against interim champion Conor McGregor, while three-time title chaser Chad Mendes would meet Edgar in a potential title eliminator.

After a crushing knockout at the hands of McGregor, Mendes was once more stopped via strikes, this time in the opening round by Edgar, who lined up yet another title clash. In December, ‘The Notorious’ one famously finished Aldo in a record-setting thirteen seconds, but a title defense against Edgar failed to materialize. McGregor instead set his sights on the lightweight crown, which led to his first promotion defeat coming against Nate Diaz, and was later stripped of featherweight championship status due to inactivity.

At the monumental UFC 200 card, Aldo would rematch Edgar this time with an interim title up for grabs. A kickboxing heavy approach from a determined Aldo proved too much for Edgar to solve, as the Manaus native scored his second career victory over ‘The Answer’.

Current Run:

Edgar’s next Octagon walk came a lot closer to home. Making the short journey to Madison Square Graden, Edgar competed on the UFC 205 card, the first of it’s kind in New York. Meeting the heavy-hitting and then surging Jeremy Stephens in a hugely dangerous clash, Edgar returned to winning ways. Surviving a brutal head kick knockdown in the second round, Edgar rebounded to win the third round and score a decision win. In the main event that night, the previously mentioned McGregor exacted a rather one-sided beat down of Eddie Alvarez to claim the lightweight throne, securing a second title held simultaneously. Weeks later, McGregor had been stripped, Aldo had been promoted to undisputed champion and was paired in a unification clash with interim gold holder Max Holloway in his home country.

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Meanwhile, Mexican striking ace Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodríguez was making a burst for the summit of the division. It was a classic striker versus grappler match up at UFC 211, and a major learning curve for the young Chihuahua native. Taking down Rodriguez on cue and smashing the youngster with damaging ground-and-pound, an inspection from the cage-side physician prompted a stop to the action. Some rather significant swelling around the eye of Rodríguez hampered his vision and subsequently left him unable to continue. This display reminded many not only of Edgar’s ability but also cemented his status as a constant danger to the top of the 145-pound tree.

A title tilt with Holloway was ultimately scheduled for UFC 222. Just four weeks from fight night, Holloway announced he had suffered a leg injury and would be unable to compete in the main event showcase.

Streaking contender Brian ‘T-City’ Ortega filled in for Holloway, to great effect. The tricky grappler had just executed a phenomenal standing guillotine on Cub Swanson, and on March 3rd, became the first man to finish Frankie Edgar during his fourteen-year career. Some cagey striking exchanges proved Ortega’s somewhat forgotten boxing ability, before a late uppercut from the Californian dropped Edgar, ending the contest in the process.

Edgar received some warranted sympathy after the defeat, with many claiming he could have taken the opportunity to wait for Holloway’s return, but instead faced the rising Ortega, who had now leapfrogged him into the #1 contender position. Holloway eventually returned and looked arguably the best we’ve ever seen him, swarming Ortega in a merciless beat down over four rounds. Edgar once again had to earn a clash with Holloway with his hard work all undone. A rematch with Swanson proved a perfect vessel for the New Jersey favorite to return to the win column, besting the striker over five rounds to set up Saturday’s clash.

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