Frankie “The Answer” Edgar will take on another of Team Alpha Male’s big dogs in Chad “Money” Mendes as they headline the TUF 22 finale event on December 11, the night before featherweight champion Jose Aldo will face interim titleholder Conor McGregor to unify the featherweight belt in Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Edgar won a unanimous decision against Urijah Faber earlier this year, the founder and leader of Team Alpha Male.
If victorious against Mendes, the Toms River, NJ fighter is hopeful it will be enough to earn a second crack at the featherweight strap. In fact, Edgar lays claim to being the next “step in” fighter in the event Aldo or McGregor are unable to fight for whatever reason.
“If someone gets hurt I’m the guy stepping in,” Edgar said, emphatically adding “And that’s from Dana White. You can print that in bold letters!”
Edgar said he spoke with the boss and is excited about either prospective fight, but is training for the best Chad Mendes there is.
“I put all of my opponents on a pedestal,” he said. “Anything can happen, and there are so many unknowns in this sport, so I’m always thinking they’re having a great camp, they’re learning new things and they’re going to come in in tip-top shape, and that always keeps me motivated.”
Mendes is a tough matchup for any fighter. He’s a great wrestler, is extremely athletic and has knockout power, a trifecta in mixed martial arts. But he’s taking on the former lightweight champion and one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best in the world in Edgar.
“Chad is a good guy,” Edgar said. “He’s a wrestler and he trains with good people and it’s business. There’s nothing personal with Chad. He’s been at the top of the division for a long time and there’s a reason for that.”
And while the featherweight division has been all McGregor since the dynamic Irishman entered the UFC, Edgar isn’t all too concerned about who wins the next title fight, as long as he gets another shot at it.
“I want that title,” he said. “That, to me, is the most important thing. Conor may be the money fight, but when you win a title that stays with you forever. Money comes and goes. You’re a champ for the rest of your life. I did it at 155 and I want to do it at 145.”
Frankie is a blue-collar fighter who puts in his work at Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu in South Jersey every day like clockwork. He is highly regarded by teammates, including Edson Barboza, Frankie Perez and Corey Anderson, as the leader of the team, and the guy who sets the pace for the rest of them.
“It’s just who I am and who I’ve been since day one,” he says. “Even when I was a wrestler [in high school and college] I’ve always been a hard worker and I had no idea it would help me out in the future in an MMA career. I always tell people you can’t wake up today and say, ‘I’m going to be motivated today.’ Motivation is a habit. You have to have it every day. I’m just a motivated person and I don’t feel worn down or bored. I’m still inspired by what I do, so it’s easy for me.”
Such a work ethic lends to one of the most common descriptions of Edgar as having great cardio, something that, with just fifteen days notice before taking on McGregor, Chad Mendes didn’t have time to build. Edgar isn’t sure if the lack of camp is the reason Mendes lost the bout, but he said it definitely was a contributing factor.
“You can’t say 100 percent that Chad wins that fight with a full camp,” he said. “Chad is known to get tired but, you know, the hype of that fight has a factor too. Yeah, it was just fifteen days notice, so that could zap his cardio, but based on what he did in that round before he got finished, he was pretty much steamrolling Conor. If he was more prepared could he have done that for five rounds? I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”
Edgar said he doesn’t want to take anything away from McGregor, however. “He capitalized on his opportunities and won the bout,” he said, adding that he respects McGregor’s business savvy.
“He knows how to sell himself, but he’s his biggest fan. I have never been one to cross a line to sell fights, and I think he’s crossed a few lines, but I don’t s**t talk Conor, even though he kind of invites it himself. I carry myself with a certain class – as do several other fighters who could be a lot richer if they did those things. We just don’t.”
A man who sprints during his walkout to the Octagon, Edgar truly loves his chosen profession. “I tell myself to walk, but something takes hold of me and I just run,” he laughs. “My walkouts are getting faster and faster. It goes back to my wrestling days when you sprint to the middle of the mat. I just can’t wait to get in there and win.”
Edgar is sprinting toward his 24th career fight, and his eleventh five-round affair.
In fact, he has had only one three-round fight in five years, in which he won a unanimous decision against Charles Oliveira to start his current four-fight win streak.
He says training for main events are harder than the fights themselves, because in order to prepare for five rounds you generally have to go for seven. But he’s used to the grind, and he’s got great memories because of it.
“My biggest win was the first BJ Penn fight,” he said. “To date, that was my biggest win, but I think the third Gray Maynard fight is the biggest win for other people. But for me, nobody expected me to beat BJ, so that was the biggest fight, but one of my favorites is the third Maynard fight. That was a great moment in my career.”
A great moment in a career that is far from over.
“Remember, I said ‘To date.’ There’s gonna be more big wins for me.”
As New Jersey’s most famous celebrity Bruce Springsteen sang, “Down the shore everything’s alright,” and that’s where Edgar, his wife and three children hang their hats, not to far from retired UFC middleweight Nick Catone, who just had his second child, a son this time, and Edgar had some advice for his friend.
“Congrats to Nick, but now he needs to get ready for the madness,” he said. “He has a girl, but girls are sweet. Boys are at a whole other level. With boys you’re trying to raise men so you treat them different, with girls that’s your daughter, so it’s a bit different. Girls are tough, don’t get me wrong, but that’s my little girl.”