In a little over eight years in the UFC, Frankie Edgar has done a lot to guarantee that the world will be talking about and celebrating him long after he hangs up the gloves. He’s won a world title, defended it, engaged in fights that can easily be regarded as classics, and has excelled in more than one weight class.
Yet maybe the most remarkable accomplishment logged by the pride of Toms River, New Jersey is that none of this has affected him. In a world that can chew up good people and spit them out as less than that, Frankie Edgar is still Frankie Edgar. So forget left hooks and single leg takedowns; how has he pulled that feat off?
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“I kind of don’t pay attention to any of it,” he laughs. “I live in my own little bubble here in Jersey.”
That bubble includes his wife, Renee, and their three children, and when he’s not being a husband and father, you don’t have to look far to find the 33-year-old featherweight contender, as he’s probably in the gym. Whether he’s training for a fight, like he has this Saturday in Manila against Urijah Faber, or just helping his teammates prepare for their upcoming battles, the true secret to Edgar’s success may be that it’s always fight season for him.
“I am a 24/7 guy,” he admits. “I don’t get out of shape, come back in and try to start from where I left off. I’m constantly on the climb. I’d like to say every fight I get better and better and I still feel like, at 33 years old, I have room for improvement. After this fight I’ll hopefully have more room to improve from there, and that’s what I want to do. I think as a martial artist you’re always trying to look to be better. That gives me the edge time in and time out.”
Replace “martial artist” with “boxer” and you’ve got a mantra I’ve heard before from future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. Still active in the boxing ring, the 50-year-old Hopkins has done more after the age of 40 than most of his peers have done in entire careers. It’s a testament to determination and discipline, and not just talent. I ask Edgar, almost jokingly, about fighting at 50.
“I don’t know about that,” he laughs, “but if I can, I’d love to. I still enjoy it and I wake up every day not tired of what I’m doing, so as long as that goes well, hey, 50 years old…”
He pauses, then continues.
“My wife might kill me.”
True, but in another 17 years she may want him out of the house and not monopolizing the TV remote in retirement. And though 50 is a crazy age to think about fighting at, especially when you’re 33, if anyone could probably do it, it’s Edgar. There are pressing matters to tend to though, and that means a true SuperFight with one of the lighter weight classes’ pioneers in Faber.
“He was the most recognizable lighter weight guy in the sport besides BJ Penn,” Edgar said of “The California Kid,” a former WEC featherweight champion who reinvented himself as a UFC bantamweight contender before making the move back to 145 pounds for Saturday’s bout. “So for me (when I came into the UFC), Urijah was the ‘it’ guy. He was on TV, and he was what you wanted to be as a fighter at the time.”
Yet despite careers that seemed destined to never intersect, with Edgar fighting at lightweight and Faber at featherweight, then Faber being at 135 pounds when Edgar went 10 pounds south, it’s a fight Edgar has eyed for a long time, believing that it would eventually take place.
“There have been so many people talking about it for so long and even with The Ultimate Fighter show he was a possible opposing coach (for season 19), so I thought it was inevitable,” Edgar said. “It’s two guys that have been at the top of their division, whatever division it was at the time, and it’s only right that we meet.”
It is, and it’s the perfect fight to introduce the Philippines to the UFC, something Edgar realizes, even if getting there is a lot tougher than competing in his backyard of New Jersey, something he hasn’t done since beating Spencer Fisher at UFC 78 in November of 2007.
“I get where they (the UFC) are coming from,” he said. “It’s a new market and I think me and Urijah are the perfect people to introduce MMA to that market.”
As for the travel, Edgar is no newcomer to that process, having competed under the UFC banner in Abu Dhabi and Japan previously.
“There’s always something you have to worry about for every camp, whether it’s an injury, something with scheduling or elevation or the trip, so to me, it’s a new challenge that I have to deal with and I always attack it head on, make sure I’m prepared the right way and all goes well,” he said. “I know I didn’t win in Japan (against Benson Henderson in 2012), but I won in Abu Dhabi (against BJ Penn in 2010) and I felt I performed well in both of them, so I’m expecting nothing less here.”
That’s a professional talking, and Edgar has always been the kind of person anyone would want on their team – he puts in his work behind the scenes, shows up on time and then delivers the performance you want to see. Day in, day out, night in, night out. As he puts it, he’s a 24/7 guy and he does it without the need for fanfare.
Yet when you are that consistent and successful, the fanfare often finds its way to you. So despite a five-round fight in front of him with an opponent in Faber that has never lost a non-title fight, the topic of a world title shot has to come up. Edgar is most certainly in line for a crack at the winner of July’s Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor showdown should he leave Manila with his 18th pro victory, and while a rematch with Aldo would be another intriguing one, what about the challenger in the UFC 189 main event? If the loquacious Mr. McGregor dethrones Aldo, let’s forget the nuts and bolts of a stylistic matchup with Edgar; how would “The Answer” fare in the first trash talk battle of his career?
“I’m not looking past anything, but if I ever do face McGregor, I would try to not pay attention to it as much as I can,” he said. “I think Aldo’s doing a pretty good job of that, but spending that World Tour with him where he had to see the guy every day, everybody has their limit. But I’m not one to talk junk, especially in the press. You hear a guy say something to the media and you hear it second hand, and it doesn’t matter. But someone says something to my face, I’m a Jersey guy, I’m definitely gonna say something back.”
You know he will, simply because Frankie Edgar doesn’t back down – not to Father Time, not to adversity, not to an opponent, and not to the oddsmakers. And fighting against all that has been the fuel for a career to remember, and one with some more memories to make, even if this time he’s no underdog. Still, it doesn’t matter to him.
“For me, whenever I was the underdog, I thought I was gonna win anyway,” Edgar said. “So my thought process is still the same. I think I’m gonna win, but I do a good job of putting my opponents on a pedestal. You’ll meet people, whether its friends or fans, and they’ll say ‘oh, this is not a good matchup for Urijah,’ or this and that, and in my head, I’m like ‘this is crazy. Urijah’s a stud and I better be ready.’ That’s what motivates me to not get caught slipping, because that can easily happen. I’m gonna be ready and I’m expecting the best Urijah we’ve ever seen.”