Weighing up a Frankie Edgar move to bantamweight

By Alistair Hendrie

Frankie Edgar had just hurled everything he had at Max Holloway. He took the featherweight champion down briefly. He smacked Max’s legs repeatedly. He bore forward, head off-centre, with two-and-three-punch salvos. Yet in Saturday’s UFC 240 headliner, Holloway was too big, too long and too powerful. The way Edgar failed to budge Holloway caused many to question whether the New Jersey native should move down to 135lbs. When Joe Rogan asked Edgar about moving down the scales during his post-fight interview, the popular American replied: “I don’t know, man.”

Truth be told there are still plenty of enticing options for Edgar at featherweight. His rapid pace and deft combinations could provide the kryptonite to Korean Zombie’s wild, arcing haymakers. A battle of jabs against Renato Moicano would also be a worthwhile encounter. More to the point, although it feels like Edgar has laid waste to the rest during his seven years at featherweight, he’s only defeated two of today’s top fifteen – Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez.

Keep in mind “The Answer,” 37, could still avenge 145lbs defeats to Jose Aldo and Brian Ortega. While Ortega might have too much clout and grappling smarts for the New Yorker, Edgar could overwhelm Aldo with pressure, leg kicks and speedy punches on the inside. Given how he flattened Stephens and Chad Mendes, he’d have a good chance of knocking out Aldo too.

Still, speculation about Edgar’s ideal weight class has rumbled throughout his career. At a measly 5 foot 6, Edgar held the UFC 155lbs crown between 2010 and 2012, defeating BJ Penn (twice) and Gray Maynard, both of whom were longer and taller than Frankie. Edgar eventually lost his belt to Benson Henderson, a man-mountain who later scaled up to welterweight. As such, Edgar’s journey to featherweight in 2013 wasn’t a surprise.

But now, given how Holloway overwhelmed and hurt Edgar at the weekend, might the number four ranked featherweight in the world take note of Rogan’s comments and whittle down once more to bantamweight? With his 68 inch reach, Edgar wouldn’t look out of place at 135lbs, and Rogan and other UFC commentators have stated that the Toms River native only weighs around 155lbs outside of fight camp.

If Edgar were to switch it up with the smaller men, he’d stand two inches taller than bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo with a four inch reach advantage. While Edgar gives up one inch in height and four inches in reach to beanpole 135’er Aljamain Sterling, he’s two inches shorter than Cody Garbrandt and two-and-a-half inches longer. So when you look at the evidence, 135lbs would seem like a suitable home for Edgar.

I’m nevertheless reluctant to bang the drum too hard for Edgar to move south again, especially given his fifteen years of competition and his hellacious trilogy with Maynard. Any relocation to 135lbs would have been executed with care and professionalism. A test cut might be needed. And Edgar might want to wait until December for any debut at a new weight class.

The dangers of weight cutting such as dehydration of vital organs and a heightened vulnerability to head shots are well chronicled and you can bet Edgar’s team, flanked by coaches Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida, will prioritise their fighter’s health above anything else. And so they should do.

We can still dream, though. A bantamweight barnburner against Cody Garbrandt would be thrilling. Consider, too, the fleet-footed striking on display if Edgar opposed Dominick Cruz. This is all fantasy MMA for the moment but it’s clear that whatever division Edgar returns to, this future UFC Hall of Famer will be a tall order for anyone on the roster.

 

Check out more of Alistair Hendrie’s work with his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women’s MMA in Britain, which features insight from Rosi Sexton, Joanne Calderwood and many more.