It took less than 10 minutes for Frankie Edgar to be asked the question that never goes away. Edgar had just defeated his sternest rival, Gray Maynard, and entered the UFC 136 post-fight press conference with a shiny gold belt and a swollen left eye, a trophy and a battle scar both emblematic of his fighting spirit. He's heard the question asked a million times in a million different ways, and it's always about his size.
In some ways, you can’t blame us for asking. Edgar, 5-foot-6 and about 160 pounds at his heaviest, is not a big guy in any sense of the word. Even in a world like fighting, where weight divisions are set up to level the playing field, he is undersized. That's because most of his contemporaries diet and cut far more weight than he does. It is not uncommon for a UFC lightweight to walk around between fights at 175 or 180 pounds. Maynard, for example, falls on the heavier end of that spectrum. So Edgar is nearly always at a size disadvantage.
But his results make us sound like idiots for continuing to question him. Size has barely mattered in his career. Edgar has only lost once, using his speed, footwork, stamina and a well-rounded offensive game to tire out and frustrate opponents, who must walk away from fights with Edgar feeling like Wile E. Coyote to his Road Runner. Every best-laid plan and advantage just falls by the wayside as they fall into his many traps. Maynard -- who demolished Edgar in round one but could never quite close out the fight -- looked and sounded absolutely stunned after being knocked out himself in the fourth round, and noted that he hit Edgar with a knee, a cross, a hook. Hit him with literally everything in his arsenal.
“If there was a bat there I probably would have hit him with that, too,” he said.
Maynard went on to say that in all his years training and fighting, he’d never been hit so hard as Edgar hit him. That’s coming from a man who trains at the world famous Xtreme Couture gym, home to Vitor Belfort, Martin Kampmann, Evan Dunham, Tyson Griffin and more. And little Frankie Edgar hit him harder than anyone else?
UFC president Dana White alternately lavished praise on Edgar and fanned the flames in regards to where he truly belongs. White said that Edgar belonged at the No. 2 spot on the world pound-for-pound fighters list, ahead of even long-reigning welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre. But on the other hand, White said that he’d prefer to see the champ move down to featherweight and challenge that division’s champion, Jose Aldo.
If it sounds a little bit crazy to suggest your current champion should vacate his belt despite winning in order to move down a division, White at least voiced a legitimate reason for that opinion, saying he believed Edgar could have a longer, safer career fighting against men who were truly the same size as him.
It is not, however, something Edgar is interested in.
“I’m the champion,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to go anywhere.”
He shouldn’t. Aside from the fights with Maynard, Edgar hasn’t taken substantial amounts of damage in his career, and in both fights, he actually out-landed Maynard. According to FightMetric, that’s the rule for Edgar rather than the exception. Despite fighting top competition, he lands vastly more blows than his opponents, connecting on 3.49 significant strikes per minute. By comparison, opponents land 1.88 significant strikes per minute against him.
Perhaps those are the types of numbers we should be paying attention to rather than his size.
Edgar has been doubted, overanalyzed and undervalued for far too long. No other champion in UFC history has been dissected in the way Edgar has. But even after beating BJ Penn twice and outlasting Maynard, the questions will probably continue coming, and Edgar will offer the same answers.
I, for one, will be retiring that line of inquiry towards the champ. We want our sport’s best to test themselves, and no one’s done it quite like Edgar, fighting and succeeding above his natural weight class for his entire career. That shouldn’t make him cause for scrutiny, it should make him cause for celebration.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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