Underdog champion ready to prove he’s no fluke
LAS VEGAS – Frankie Edgar gets no respect.
The New Jersey native had a monumental 2010, scoring two dominant wins over B.J. Penn and capturing the UFC lightweight title in the process. The wins landed him on a short list of those being considered for Fighter of the Year honors.
Make no mistake about it – Edgar had a very good year.
And yet the champion finds himself in the rarest of roles: a champion going into a title defense as an underdog.
UFC President Dana White says he doesn’t understand the lack of respect afforded Edgar, but he certainly isn’t surprised.
“That kid has not earned respect yet. It happens sometimes. This is a guy that beat BJ Penn twice, convincingly. And it’s just because he’s not going out there and knocking them out and stuff like that,” White said. “But he does pull out some knockouts and some submissions. I don’t know. It’s an interesting fight.”
“Listen, I saw Frankie Edgar put on a masterpiece in his last fight,” White continued. “What everybody has to remember is that this guy made BJ Penn look old. BJ is not old, you know? And the other thing to be impressed about with Frankie Edgar is that this kid is a wrestler. He’s taken his hands to a whole new level. This kid looks like a boxer out there now. Lateral movement, side to side, head movement, sticking and moving? Those are all things that a great boxer does. So not only is he a great wrestler, but he’s become a great boxer.”
Edgar’s pair of victories over the legendary Penn – a fighter who many considered to be the best lightweight in history – cemented his place at the top of the current lightweight division. It also gave him confidence in his ever-improving skills, no matter what the oddsmakers or fans might think.
“I think being a champion with wins over someone like BJ only increased my confidence tenfold,” Edgar said. “This isn’t my first time doing this as champion, so it helps me. I feel like a veteran.”
In Maynard, Edgar faces a challenger who holds victories over tough opponents such as Kenny Florian, Roger Huerta, Nate Diaz and Jim Miller. But Maynard also holds the distinction of being the only man to ever defeat Edgar, during a Fight Night 13 back bout in 2008. Edgar welcomes the chance to avenge his lone career setback and concedes that Saturday’s UFC 125 main event is the most important of his career.
“For me, being the champion, every fight seems to be more important than the last,” Edgar says. “Him having a win over me makes it seem that much more important.”
“I love how he said he was “13 and Gray Maynard.” That’s awesome, and it’s true,” White says with a laugh. “He was undefeated, and this is the guy that beat him. He’s trying to get revenge, but more importantly he’s trying to defend his title.”