UFC 156: Why Frankie Edgar Is the Toughest Fighter in MMA Today

Matt Juul@@MattchidaMMAContributor IIIFebruary 1, 2013

August 11, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Benson Henderson (right) fights Frankie Edgar (left) during UFC 150 at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Calling a mixed martial artist "tough" is as cliché as a hipster wearing horn-rimmed glasses while sipping on a latté in some nondescript, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop.

We get the picture already.

Every MMA fighter, man or woman, has some level of "toughness" buried within them. They sort of need to be hardened, both physically and mentally, considering that broken bones, bruised knuckles and bloodied faces are the norm, not the exception, in this profession.

However, there are some warriors who have the ability to endure an absurd amount of punishment that would force any sane human being to wave the white flag. Case in point—Frankie Edgar.

The diminutive former UFC champion has made a career out of defying the odds - defeating opponents he wasn't supposed to defeat in a weight class he wasn't supposed to be in - all while coming back from brutal beatdowns that would break lesser men.

But Edgar is not a brawler, well, not in the typical sense anyways.

He's not like Forrest Griffin, the kind of guy who gets amped up after eating a bunch of strikes. Nor is he like Leonard Garcia, actively looking to turn fights into barnburners. In fact, if you ask "The Answer" himself, he'd probably cringe at the thought of fighting in another all-out war.

While Edgar's otherworldly chin is certainly impressive, what interests me the most about the man is his mental fortitude, his ability to rise to the occasion even if the cards seemed to be stacked against him.

Even at the genesis of his career, Edgar had to battle against the odds, making his debut in an underground fight league in New York, a state that still bans professional MMA. And if just finding a place to fight wasn't hard enough, "The Answer" had to make the tough career choice of fighting in a weight class that, honestly, he doesn't belong in.

Back before the UFC had the 145 lb. and other smaller weight classes, there were few choices for a lighter weight fighter to make if they wanted to advance in their careers. They could either fight in a heavier division, hoping for a shot in the big leagues, or they could roam the regional scene and less popular promotions in order to face similarly sized opponents.

For Edgar, the lure of the UFC's lightweight belt was too much to pass up. He made the difficult decision to put his body on the line against guys much bigger than him, and the gamble eventually paid off when he ripped the lightweight title from BJ Penn's hands at UFC 112.

But beyond becoming the champ, Edgar's "toughness" has never been on display more than during his current string of title fights and championship rematches.

"The Answer" could have taken the easy road during his lightweight reign. He could have chosen not to grant Gray Maynard a rematch after their first title fight tussle ended in a draw. Hell, it took Anderson Silva almost two years before he finally gave Chael Sonnen another crack at the belt after their first war.

Edgar also could have decided to take the immediate drop to featherweight after his first loss to Benson Henderson.

But Edgar's not the type of guy to give up, especially when his lifelong goals are on the line.

The New Jersey native took the hard road, mentally and physically straining himself while repeatedly taking beatdowns from guys much bigger than him, all just to prove that he's the best.

Now with his UFC 156 bout against champ Jose Aldo just a day away, Edgar is again putting himself in the line of fire despite dropping down to his more natural weight class. Sure, the former lightweight king could have taken a warm-up fight or two, especially after back-to-back losses, but that's not the type of guy "The Answer" is.

Edgar doesn't like the easy road and would rather be immediately thrown against the best of the best than take a give me fight. It's this constant yearning to be the top fighter in the world coupled with his granite chin that makes Edgar one of the toughest guys to put away.

Even if Edgar is not victorious Saturday night, the fact that he's been willing to put his body on the line against championship caliber opponents for almost three years straight makes him the toughest man in MMA today.

Be sure to like me on Facebook or follow @MattchidaMMA