The UFC has seen many champions come and go. But Frankie "The Answer" Edgar breaks the mold in so many ways. He's not your usual UFC champion. He is unique in many ways.
Edgar is just plain good for the UFC's bottom line. The best thing that could happen this Saturday at UFC 144 would be for Edgar to defeat Benson Henderson by knockout.
Here is why.
In a world where every fighter is constantly cutting at least 30 lbs., with some cutting 60 lbs. or more, Edgar is an anomaly. He doesn't really cut any weight because he's naturally 155 lbs. This means that in virtually every fight, he's smaller than his opponent.
He's usually shorter with a reach disadvantage, yet he fights highly skilled fighters who are much larger than him. Normally, this is the perfect formula for failure.
Somehow, Edgar makes it work and always finds a way to beat his opponents. He might just be the most successful undersized champion since Royce Gracie!
Certainly not your typical champion!
"The undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion of the World, Frankie, 'The Answer' Edgar'" is a story that is too good to be over just yet.
The undersized champion from New Jersey has made an entire career of beating guys who were supposed to run right through him.
Almost every single time Frankie Edgar fights, he's smaller than his opponent and he's the underdog. Every single time, he wins anyway. This is the stuff that legends are made of.
Long before anyone knew how good Jim Miller was, Edgar was handing the smaller of the Miller bothers his first loss at Reality Fighting 14: Fall Brawl. Only two other men have beaten Miller over the course of his 25-fight career: Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson. Miller is no easy win for anyone. If you don't believe me, just ask Melvin Guillard.
In his UFC debut, Edgar squared off against the undefeated 8-0 Tyson Griffin—a rising contender many fighters didn't want to face. Frankie surprised everyone, dominating Griffin all three rounds. Late in the third, Griffin got Edgar in a deep kneebar. As the final seconds ticked down, Edgar showed everyone his greatest asset as a fighter: His heart. Edgar refused to tap and won the fight by unanimous decision.
In April 2008, Gray Maynard handed Frankie his first and only career loss.
From there, Edgar rebounded, defeating former No. 1 contender Hermes França.
Then came the next fight everyone knew he couldn't win. Frankie was matched up with former champion Sean Sherk. Few people thought he would beat França. But absolutely nobody thought he could win a fight against "The Muscle Shark." Frankie outboxed and out wrestled Sherk, cruising to another unanimous decision win.
This was the victory that put Edgar on the short list of title contenders.
When he stepped in to welcome submission specialist Matt Veach into the UFC, everyone had Frankie pegged as a unanimous decision specialist. Even in this fight, many doubted that Edgar could win. So Frankie did what Frankie does: He proved everyone wrong by submitting the submissions expert.
Heading into 2010, BJ Penn was reigning over the UFC lightweight division, defending his title three times via total domination. Penn was touted as unbeatable at 155. The UFC needed somebody to fight BJ, so it threw Edgar in like throwing fresh meat into a cage of hungry wolves. Sure Edgar had pulled off some surprising wins in the past, but nobody thought he could beat BJ Penn! Undaunted by doubters, Edgar stepped up and handed Penn the 25 most frustrating minutes of his life, walking away with the lightweight title belt.
So many people couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it, either. It was a close fight, but I couldn't believe that Edgar won it. And so a rivalry was born.
In the instant rematch, Frankie absolutely embarrassed "The Prodigy," defending his title and ending the BJ Penn era in emphatic fashion.
In 2011, Edgar's rivalry with Gray Maynard would take center stage. "The Bully" possessed all the same skills as Edgar, and Maynard was a lot bigger and stronger to boot. Edgar and Maynard put on some of the best fights we've ever seen, and Edgar put an exclamation mark finish on his rivalry with Maynard by knocking out Gray at UFC 136.
Nobody has managed to repeatedly overcome the impossible quite like Frankie "The Answer" Edgar. He's a Hollywood movie come to life!
Refusing to tap in his UFC debut against Tyson Griffin.
Beating the unbeatable champion BJ Penn and proving it was no fluke by doing it twice.
In the second fight against Gray Maynard, Edger became the only man to survive to fight on after getting knocked down three times in one round. He came back so strong that he edged out a judges decision draw.
In the third fight with Maynard, he overcame another first-round one-sided beating and staged another unlikely comeback. And this time, he took the judges out of the equation by knocking Maynard out in the fourth round.
Edgar can will his body to do things that should be impossible. His will to win is legendary. You literally have to see it to believe it.
Edgar is an inspiration to anyone facing adversity. He's living proof that anything can be overcome if you want it badly enough.
You can bet that Hollywood will eventually look to cash in on such an inspiring true story.
I have to admit it: I haven't always liked Frankie Edgar. In fact, I kind of hated him. The kid has made a bad habit of knocking off my all-time favorite fighters ever since he got to the UFC.
Griffin, Fisher, Penn and Maynard were all guys that I was rooting for. When they battled Edgar, I wanted to see them put a beating on this little upstart.
After beating Penn twice in a row, I couldn't help but respect the guy.
After Edgar knocked out Maynard in their third fight, that was it. I was done. This former hater became a Frankie Edgar fan.
How could I help it? The guy just leaves you with nothing to hate and everything to love. He's a giant-killer. He's got more heart than anyone I've ever seen before. He's one of unlikeliest success stories in MMA history. And yet Frankie remains a humble, average guy through it all.
Frankie Edgar has won me over. I know I'm not the only one. All he has to do is continue winning against all odds, and Edgar is destined to become one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in the UFC.
As most of us know, mixed martial arts is still illegal in New York. It doesn't make sense. It's an amazing show of a government that refuses to accept reality and logic. With or without them, this sport is going to continue to grow at breakneck speed. But this hasn't stopped Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita from knocking on the door, trying to get MMA legalized in New York.
My suggestion? Knock harder!
Behold the New Meadowlands Stadium. This 82,566-seat sports arena is the home of the New York Jets and the New York Giants. It just happens to be located in New Jersey, where mixed martial arts is completely legal.
The UFC has two champions that are locals: Jon "Bones" Jones and Frankie "The Answer" Edgar. The UFC needs them to retain their respective titles so it can put them both on the same card in the New Meadowlands Stadium.
With Jones, Edgar and a lot of other local fighters on the same card, you have enough local fan appeal to fill the New Meadowlands Stadium and you probably can put at least 85,000 fans in there.
With a UFC event selling out every ticket in the home of the Jets and the Giants, the government of New York is going to look pretty ridiculous trying to maintain the ban on MMA in the state.
Money talks. New York will have a hard time selling its continued ban on MMA when it stands to make the state a lot of money.
The UFC's lightweight division has a messy history. In spite of this, it has produced two sort-of-dominant champions in Jens Pulver and BJ Penn.
But neither of those title reigns can hold a candle up to the truly legendary title reigns: Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, George St Pierre et al.
If we look outside the UFC, each of the other weight classes also has its own dominant champions.
You have Fedor Emelianenko at heavyweight.
At featherweight you have Jose Aldo with five combined UFC/WEC title defenses. You also have Urijah Faber with four WEC title defenses.
At bantamweight you have Dominick Cruz with five total title defenses in the WEC and UFC. You also have Miguel Torres, the most dominant bantamweight ever.
Every division has had its legendary dominant champions. Every division except for the lightweight division, that is.
With a win against Benson Henderson on Saturday, Frankie "The Answer" Edgar will tie BJ Penn's record of defending the lightweight title three times. Add one more win after that, and Edgar will have four title defenses and will have established himself as the first truly dominant lightweight champion in UFC history.
Undersized champion with the oversized heart becomes the greatest lightweight in MMA history by repeatedly refusing to be beaten.
What's not to love about that?