Hailing from Toms River, New Jersey, Frankie Edgar grew up a wrestler but would turn into a world champion. New Jersey has had it’s fair share of combat sports champions in Marvin Hagler, Chuck Wepner, and Jersey Joe Walcott but Edgar brought something different.
Frankie Edgar carved out a role in mixed martial arts as the sport was riding a wave of momentum post Ultimate Fighter and right as fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar were bringing new eyes to it. He never was one to be loud, he didn’t beg for title shots, he very much just won his fights and that was all he was concerned with. From there he eventually was given the ultimate chance and he seized his moment.
A Hall of Fame career though always has to come to an end and that seems to be what will happen at Madison Square Garden on Saturday at UFC 281. He won’t go out on top but he is going out on his terms and in a venue just 77 miles away from his hometown. Not every fighter gets that benefit, especially in the UFC, but Edgar as always proved what hard work will earn you.
In a long career there are three defining moments that fans should remember Frankie Edgar for. The first came in a country the UFC now does business with routinely but at the time was new for the leading brand in mixed martial arts.
— The Mac Life (@TheMacLife) November 2, 2022
Edgar Defeats a Legend to Win the Lightweight Title
UFC 112 would take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi back in 2010, 10 years before Fight Island was a thought. It was unmarked territory for the UFC but would quickly prove its worth.
Business dealings aside, this event is probably remembered more for the antic of Anderson Silva against Demian Maia in their Middleweight Title bout. Silva was screaming at Maia, choosing not to engage, and left Dana White infuriated at the post fight presser. What people lose sight of is the then Lightweight G.O.A.T B.J. Penn had lost his title to then relatively unknown Frankie Edgar. Penn was coming off back-to-back stoppage wins and was a heavy favorite in the fight. Edgar used his wrestling and crisp striking to outpoint the MMA legend and take the title home to Toms River.
Edgar Erases his First Loss From His Record in Crazy Trilogy
In 2008, Frankie Edgar suffered his first career loss to Gray Maynard via decision. The bout wasn’t anything close to what the next two between them would be like. At UFC 125 on New Year’s Day 2011, Edgar and Maynard would have an all-out war that remains one of the best fights in the division’s history. Their rematch would start a discussion around MMA judging and 10-8 rounds after Maynard would knock Edgar down three times in round one. The scoring of that round would later be seen as critical as Edgar retained the title after both men fought to a draw.
Of course with both men going through eight hard rounds against each other, what is signing up for five more going to do? It would produce another all-time classic but this one wouldn’t see the judges’ scorecards.
At UFC 136, after fighting Maynard for a combined 58:34 in the UFC octagon, Edgar would erase the lone defeat on his record at the time when he would stop The Bully via strikes in round four of their third bout. This bout has lost its lore over time but this very much is the original version of what we are seeing today between Deiveson Figuerido and Brandon Moreno. Two fighters that are at the top of a division and are kryptonite for the other resulting in classics in each matchup.
Edgar Drops Down in Weight in Pursuit of Hunting Another Legend
Frankie Edgar had a rough go of it in the Lightweight division after the Maynard win. He would lose back-to-back decisions to Benson Henderson after he came over from the WEC so Edgar stepped back from everything and got a lay of the land. He had always been a small lightweight and with the merger with WEC the UFC now had a Featherweight division with the king of the division and another G.O.A.T, Jose Aldo.
Edgar would sign up for a fight with the dominant Brazilian and it would be for the interim Featherweight title. Aldo was coming off the devastating loss to Conor McGregor. The same story as the Henderson bouts would unfold though as the former Lightweight champion would have his moments but ultimately Aldo would prove to be too much for him.
Aldo would win via unanimous decision but Edgar again would make history as the first former champion to drop down and go after the amazing crop of talent that came in from the WEC.
The perseverance and heart that Edgar has displayed and makes him up as a person is displayed in all his fights. For these bouts specifically though Edgar reminds everyone that he is apart of the storytelling of not just the UFC but the sport as a whole. We see so much of his approach in sport and his camp has become a hotbed for so many great fighters who will make up the future of the sport.
No matter what happens this Saturday, the answer to the question “who is one of the most underappreciated fighters of all time?” will always have Frankie Edgar in the discussion.