When the signature alto saxophone of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick In The Door” blares from the stadium speakers and Frankie Edgar makes his way towards the UFC Octagon for combat, it’s hard to root against him. How could you? Even for the lightweight division, Edgar is tiny (5’6” and 155 pounds) but his heart and competitive spirit looms larger than most heavyweights. And ever since his UFC debut in 2007, Edgar has proverbially kicked in the door and waved the .44 at the division. Hell, even some of his opponents probably thought during one of Edgar’s smack downs “Frankie don’t hit me no more.”
“The most shady, Frankie baby,” the former champion recites, using his best impression of The Notorious One. “I grew up on Biggie and if you listen to his message it’s kind of fitting, you know?”
The “I Put A Spell On You” sampled production threw venomous verbal darts at anyone who even considered challenging for the King of New York’s throne. Although Edgar (14-2-1) may not be from New York (he’s from Toms River, NJ to be exact) and isn’t as verbally inclined as the late rap phenomenon , he’s never saw an opponent that he wouldn’t like to fight. And if you think you came close to beating him, the hardnosed Renzo Gracie Combat Team member will give you another shot just to prove that he’s better than you. Ask BJ Penn and Gray Maynard how that worked out for them. Here’s a hint: it didn’t.
However, Edgar will be entering the Octagon at UFC 150 looking to ensure that Benson Henderson’s reign as champion will end up being, as Biggie put it, “short like leprechauns.” Back in February, Henderson managed to hand Edgar his first loss in eight fights when he squeaked by with a close decision victory and pried away Edgar’s UFC lightweight title. Their thrilling first encounter was named “Fight of the Night” as both took as much as they gave. However, a brutal upkick that would have knocked out a lesser man nearly took out “The Answer” in the second round. Wading into danger has become a common theme whenever Edgar fights (“I’ve been in that position the previous fights so I thought to myself ‘here we go again,’ he says) as his past two fights with Gray Maynard saw him flirt with disaster only to come back in win. That wouldn’t be the case against Henderson. On Saturday night in Colorado the former champ is looking to bring back that title to its rightful owner.
Looking at Edgar’s past two years in the cage you may get a sense of déjà vu. This will be the third consecutive rematch that Edgar has been in over his past six fights. After winning the title as a huge underdog against BJ Penn in April of 2010, Edgar granted “The Prodigy” a rematch four months later and retained his title with a more definitive unanimous decision victory. On New Year’s Day 2011, Edgar fought the only man to beat him to that point, Gray Maynard, and the two battled to a draw that was named “Fight of the Year.” The two fought for a third time last October and “The Answer” silenced his critics with a resounding fourth round knockout. The common theme in all of those fights (including February’s loss to Henderson) was that Edgar’s opponents were favored to win.
Edgar is the consummate underdog — the Rocky story, if you will — regardless of whether he’s the champion or not. It’s an odd position to be in where you aren’t favored to win even though you are the champion, but that’s exactly where Edgar has been, and will be come Saturday night.
“I don’t care,” Edgar bristles at what is becoming familiar territory. “I’ve been the underdog every fight and I seem to find a way to win so it doesn’t matter who you think is going to win. That’s the reason why we fight. If you knew who was going to win there would be no reason to fight.”
While that is true, his underdog status nearly saw him get cast aside when it came to matching the newly crowned Henderson for his first title defense. With the division being clogged up because of the rematches, Dana White wasn’t too enthused with the idea of yet another rematch holding the division hostage. But despite the UFC President’s desire for Edgar to drop weight classes and remove himself from the lightweight title picture, Edgar wasn’t having any of it and made sure his boss knew about it.
“I was the champ for two years and lost a razor thin decision. I didn’t want to hear anything about having to move down to 145 lbs division,” Edgar says as he expresses some frustration with people asking him to vacate the division and give up on redemption. Although the suggestion seemed to be gaining steam with fans and the media, a few text messages and a meeting later had White changing his tune. Edgar raised two valid points in the meeting. One of them was the controversial nature in which he lost and the other was because Edgar gave the same opportunities to BJ Penn and Gray Maynard.
“I did what I had to do by giving (BJ Penn and Gray Maynard) rematches and now it’s my turn,” Edgar says. And he’s right, the UFC does owe him the opportunity to reclaim what he held on to for nearly two years. Now, all he has to do is make good on his promise to bring the belt back to New Jersey. But what if Edgar does win with another close decision? With both fighters winning one fight each, a third fight would seem inevitable. And, once again, the division would be held hostage as potential contenders would become mere spectators to yet another rematch.
And who really wants that?
Frankie Edgar, that’s who.