There can be no doubt Frankie Edgar deserves his shot at Max Holloway’s UFC featherweight crown, now scheduled to take place on December 2 at UFC 218. Despite a large portion of the MMA media (Fighters Only not included) backing Yair Rodriguez to use him as a stepping stone at UFC 211, ‘The Answer’ mauled the young Mexican and forced the doctor to stop the fight and stepped back to the front of the 145lb queue.
The only thing that could have thrown a monkey wrench in his plans was a win for Jose Aldo (a man with two prior wins over Edgar) at UFC 212, but when Holloway stopped the Brazilian, there could be no denying the New Jersey native.
Now, following confirmation Edgar will be next in line for Holloway, the former lightweight champion has the chance to add another belt to his collection and join an elite list of two-weight champions.
Fighters Only caught up with Edgar for our September issue and here’s what he had to say.
Q: Was there any point over the past 18 months where you thought another featherweight title shot might never happen?
FE: There was always doubt a little bit, but I always try to stay positive and keep my eye on that prize. I don’t want to lose sight on that. It definitely motivates me.
Q: Did you ever get frustrated – either after not getting the chance to fight Conor McGregor or losing to Aldo?
FE: Yeah, I was definitely getting frustrated. But that wasn’t getting me anywhere, feeling sorry for myself and complaining too much, so I just kind of stayed the course and kept working hard and here we are.
Q: Were you worried about Aldo winning at UFC 212 and you never getting another chance?
FE: ‘Never’ is a strong word. I don’t think I was looking at it like that. It was going to be a lot harder for it to happen, possibly, but I guess I’ll never say never.
Q: How close were you to dropping weight to challenge at bantamweight?
FE: I wasn’t. They’d have to really persuade me to move down at this point. Going for the third belt or getting paid to do so. Especially now it’s seemed to work out for me. If it didn’t work out for me, who knows, maybe I might have a different answer.
Q: Did it matter who you fought – Holloway, avenging your defeats to Aldo or even McGregor?
FE: I think the belt is the biggest thing. To get that belt you’re going to fight the best guys on the way there and, hopefully, to defend that title you’re going to fight the best guys. But, to me, it was just about the title.
Q: What do you make of the challenge Holloway poses?
FE: He’s tough, man. He might be the best guy I’ve fought to date. Super long and rangy, he’s a fighter’s fighter – he brings it every time – and he can go all five hard rounds. I’ll have my hands full.
Q: Why do you think you deserve the title fight over the likes of Cub Swanson?
FE: If you look what I’ve done in the past, it definitely holds weight – being a former champion. On the path I’ve taken, I’ve fought the best. If you’re going to talk about Cub – the people he’s fought since we fought and the people I’ve fought since we fought – you can’t really compare the two. And the fact he fought Max already and was beaten by him, I don’t give him much weight.
Q: Did it bother you so many people expected Yair Rodriguez to beat you?
FE: Not really. A little bit, maybe, but it didn’t bother me to the core. People that know me knew what it was and it’s probably just the nature of the sport. A young guy’s going to come in, have hype around him, he’s going to fight a guy who’s proven already and they’re going to compare those two guys – this guy’s on his way out and this guy’s on his way in. It’s just kind of how it goes and I get it, but I don’t think I’m like every other guy.
Q: You’re 35, but show no signs of depreciation in the cage. For how long can you maintain this level of performance?
FE: I don’t really want to put a number on it or anything. My thing has been as long as I’m having fun and I’m competitive, I’ll do it for as long as I can. I feel like I am getting better, even at this age. I think every time out I’m doing something different or doing something better. I still feel good, I feel young and I’m having fun so I’m going to ride it until all those things cease happening.
Q: Are there any signs you’ll look for to decide if you’re ever on the decline?
FE: I think it’s your performances. As soon as my performances are not what they’re supposed to be or I’m not competing with the best guys in the world, I’ll probably pack it in. I don’t know if there are day-to-day things that are going to tell me that it might be it. I don’t really see those coming. As long as I’m having fun, I don’t want to get a real job yet.
Q: How did you become involved with Brave Combat Federation as a commentator?
FE: I went out to Bahrain to train with those guys and eventually they started Brave and I started doing commentating. I’m kind of amazed at the production and how quickly they grew the Brave organization. They’re only six events in and they’ve been in Mumbai, India and Brazil and Mexico. It’s amazing what they’re doing.
Q: Is that job part of your retirement plan, or is it just something to keep you busy and have fun with?
FE: A little bit of both. Any time I can spread my wings and try to get experience doing other things I’m going to jump to it. I was an analyst for ESPN and Fox a couple of times, but doing the commentary is something new. It could be in the future and the only way to find out is by trying it, so that’s kind of what I’m doing now. I need to get some reps in and see how good I can get at it.
Q: You also have UFC Gym Frankie Edgar. How much do you enjoy having your own facility?
FE: It’s cool. It’s a beautiful facility, it’s in North Brunswick, New Jersey – 26,000 square feet, with a jiu-jitsu space and a full-size cage in there. It’s very cool. There’s a learning curve in any business and we’re just getting through our first year, doing well. I’m up there a couple of times a month either doing seminars or training there myself. I want to get this one successful then possibly open another in my hometown in the future. But I want to focus on this one and not put the cart in front of the horse before we get going here. I am starting a nutrition company, Iron Army, too.
Q: Do you feel you’re appreciated enough by the fans and UFC for your achievements?
FE: As far as the fans go, even the media, I definitely feel the love, more so now than in the past. I’ve always been taken care of by the UFC, so I can’t really complain. Our relationship has been on the up-and-up.
Q: Where do you see yourself among the MMA greats?
FE: I think that’s for the fans and the media (to decide). I’m not one to talk myself up. You’ve probably heard me as far as promotion goes. Everybody wants to talk about how great they are. I’d rather just let everybody talk about my skills and make sure I’m performing and improving. But you can’t deny what I’ve done. I’ve done some pretty good things, I’m proud of my career so far, proud of every performance I’ve put in. That’s what I really think about.
*** This feature first appeared in the September 2017 issue of Fighters Only ***