It’s hard to not like a fighter like Frankie Edgar. Edgar has often found himself as the underdog in big fights but manages to scrap and compete at a high level.
He was a massive underdog at UFC 112 when he took on then champion BJ Penn. Penn was as high as a -1100 favorite, but Edgar came out with the unanimous decision win and the lightweight championship. He also won their rematch, where he was again the underdog at the betting window.
For 12 years Edgar has been an “anyone, anytime” type of fighter in the UFC and has continued to have a high level of success even after dropping the lightweight belt and moving to featherweight.
While he’s come up short in two featherweight championship bouts to date, he’s now in line to face champ Max Holloway for the title at UFC 240.
This shot at the title has been a bit of a long time coming as Edgar was scheduled to face Holloway in March 2018 before an injury to the champ derailed the fight. While Edgar could have sat on the sidelines and waited for the title fight, he chose instead to help the UFC “save the card” by facing the very dangerous Brian Ortega.
Ortega scored a first round knockout of Edgar, becoming the only man to ever stop the former lightweight king, and propelled himself into Edgar’s spot as title challenger.
Edgar scored a comeback win over Cub Swanson and Holloway defeated Ortega, setting the stage for the two to finally meet.
“Frankie’s getting the shot because Frankie earned the shot,” UFC President Dana White said. “Frankie’s a guy who always steps up. He’s one of the best ever. As a lot of these guys are getting older, you see a lot of these guys getting older and retiring, Frankie Edgar is still one of the best in the world and on top of his game.”
By comparison, only three of his nine UFC wins at lightweight came by stoppage.
While the pair of wins over B.J. Penn in 2010 vaulted Edgar into the spotlight as a true top player, his back-to-back title defenses against Gray Maynard earned him a reputation as a sort of Rocky for the MMA world.
The two had met in 2008 with Maynard taking a unanimous decision victory but both men had improved in the years that followed.
When they rematched at UFC 125 in January 2011, Maynard blitzed Edgar in the first round, coming very close to scoring a stoppage before Edgar came back strong in the second.
The two battled to a rare championship fight draw that was named Fight of the Night by the UFC as well as winning multiple Fight of the Year awards at various media outlets. The fight still stands as one of the greatest to ever take place in the Octagon and was one of the first clear showcases of Edgar’s unbelievable fighting spirit.
They would rematch at UFC 136 and the first round would play out almost identical to the previous meeting. Maynard blasted Edgar repeatedly with massive shots, seemingly on the verge of a stoppage, but Edgar survived and this time managed to score a knockout in the fourth round to dispatch his rival and retain the championship.
Edgar’s ability to survive that level of punishment led White to recall Rocky and how the champ had changed his view of the classic boxing film.
“I loved ‘Rocky,’” White said after the fight. “But even when I watched ‘Rocky,’ it was like, this is such bullshit. Nobody can take that many punches and come back and win a fight. It could never happen.”
Maynard himself seemed as though he couldn’t believe the punishment Edgar could take and still keep coming forward.
“I hit him on a knee, I hit him with a right, I hit him on a hook,” Maynard said. “What else? If there was a bat, I probably could have hit him with that, too. I couldn’t find one.”
As for Edgar, he just saw it as being the fighter he has always been.
“Sometimes you get hit like that and you’re in survival mode,” Edgar said. “I have fight in me. That’s what it is. You can hit me, rock me and I’ll keep coming no matter what.”
“(Rocky) was my hero. I guess I kind of walk in his same footsteps.”