LAS VEGAS — Frankie Edgar is at a position in his MMA career where he probably should have been in, oh, 2008. On Saturday at Apex, Edgar will meet Pedro Munhoz in an important bantamweight bout.
Had Edgar been at bantamweight instead of lightweight in 2008, UFC history would be vastly different.
There would have been no upset of B.J. Penn to win the title in Abu Dhabi.
There would have been no classic comeback on New Year’s Day 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden against Gray Maynard to earn a draw and retain his belt.
There would have been no dramatic knockout in the rubber match against Maynard later in 2011.
Heck, there wouldn’t have been the dominant victory over Yair Rodriguez in 2017 when many were about to bury Edgar and tap Rodriguez as the sport’s next big thing.
It goes further than that, though. Imagine Dominick Cruz versus Edgar in 2011 for the bantamweight title. Imagine Edgar facing T.J. Dillashaw in 2015 for the belt?
Edgar’s a guy who should have been a bantamweight all along, but because of toughness and doggedness and self-belief, he for years resisted urges to drop weight.
He went 3-0-1 in lightweight title fights before dropping back-to-back close decisions to Benson Henderson.
He’s coming off back-to-back losses — to Max Holloway in a featherweight title fight at UFC 240 and by TKO to the “Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung — and has finally made the drop to bantamweight.
It was entirely within character for Edgar to admit it was probably a good move for him.
“So many people like to say that I should have done this years ago, so I guess I should have,” he told Yahoo Sports, though it was not at all certain that he believed what he’d just said. “I don’t look back at all the wouldas, couldas and shouldas, because that will drive you crazy.
“I’ve always believed that if you’re a true mixed martial artist, you should be willing to fight anybody and take on the best guys. I guess I was undersized [as a lightweight] but I was taught at the beginning that a martial artist didn’t worry about size. Royce Gracie was beating guys twice his size in the first couple of UFCs and that’s what brought me into this sport and that’s how I have always looked at things. You fight whoever the best guys are, no matter what.”
In Munhoz, he’s not getting a slouch in his bantamweight debut, though he didn’t want one. He hesitated to speculate on his future as a bantamweight because he doesn’t want to look past Munhoz, but if he wins on Saturday, he’ll likely be a Top 10 bantamweight when the UFC rankings come out next week.
In that case, it’s not a stretch to see him moving into position to fight for the title, currently held by unbeaten Petr Yan.
It would be a historic title run if he could do it. He’d be the first fighter to win championships two weight classes apart and only the third, following Randy Couture and B.J. Penn, to move down after winning one in a higher weight.
Given that it is all but certain that he wouldn’t get a bantamweight title shot until 2021, if he is able to capture a championship at 135 pounds it would mean it would be nine years between reigns. He lost his lightweight championship to Henderson in Saitama, Japan, on Feb. 26, 2012.
That may be one of the most remarkable and unlikely records in the UFC.
But because he’s such a low-key, unassuming guy, Edgar doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.
“It’s a tall task for me to talk about fighting for a championship when I have another fight coming up,” Edgar said. “Obviously, if I could pull it off, it would be something that’s never been done before and that would be nice. I have my goals and everything, but I have been around this game a long time and one of the things I know for certain is it is never a smart move to be talking about other fights when you have one coming up.
“I need to go out there and handle my business [against Munhoz] before I worry about records or titles or anything else. I do feel like this will be a good weight for me and I feel like I still have a lot to offer. It’s nice if the fans and the media want to speculate, but I can only do it the way I do it and that’s by focusing on one guy at a time.”
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