The announcement was made on Wednesday that former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar would match up against BJ Penn for a third fight after the two competitors square off as coaches on the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Edgar's role as coach on the show made sense considering his long-standing status as one of the best lighter weight fighters in the sport, and the fact that he's never actually taken over the reins during the nearly 20 seasons of the reality show.
The odd choice was placing Penn, who has gone 1-4-1 over his last six fights, into a coaching role opposite Edgar. This would be Penn's first fight dropping down to featherweight after a career spent as either a lightweight or welterweight.
Edgar says the first choice that came up was actually former WEC champion Urijah Faber, but when Penn made a call to UFC president Dana White the perfect storm came together.
"I was willing to do it against Urijah (Faber), it would have been a good show, I just didn't want to go all the way down to 135. I thought maybe possibly get it at a catchweight or at 145," Edgar said on Friday. "I guess Dana was milling that around, and somehow or another BJ called him and said he wanted to fight (Benson) Henderson because he eventually wants to get to me, so Dana saw the opportunity to make it bigger with both coaches at 145 and it kind of works out that way."
The big question then became what Edgar gets out of a third fight with Penn?
Edgar originally fought Penn at UFC 112 in 2010 and despite entering the fight as an underdog, he surprised everybody with his performance and won the bout by unanimous decision. The first matchup did end in a very close call, so the UFC opted to put Penn and Edgar together again four months later at UFC 118.
This time around, Edgar left nothing to doubt and routed Penn in a one-sided unanimous decision victory.
With two fights and two wins over Penn, the last of which was the equivalent of pitching a shutout, why would Edgar sign on for a third fight given the fact that he's already highly ranked in the featherweight division and seemingly could be on the cusp of another title shot with a win or two more?
"It's the opportunity of the show, it's the UFC asking me to do the show and it's BJ Penn," Edgar explained. "He's a legend, he's one of the best lightweights ever. I know I beat him twice, he really thinks he can beat me. He gave me my title shot so why not give him a chance to kind of restart his career. I want to put a stamp on this one. I don't want anybody's mind doubting that I'm the man now. I'm the guy all the lightweights should be talking about."
A dominant performance in their second fight may have shut the door to a third matchup in theory, but Edgar says there's still room to prove something against Penn again. Most notably, Edgar believes that he can be the first fighter to truly put Penn away inside the distance.
Penn has been finished before in his career—against Georges St-Pierre he retired between rounds and could not continue. He was also put away by strikes against Matt Hughes in 2006, but that was after suffering a broken rib during the fight.
Edgar wants to finish Penn in a fashion that has never been done before, and truly define his own legacy in the UFC as the best fighter to compete in the lighter weight divisions.
"That's the goal and it's always easier said that done, but the fight's a long ways away and we've got the show in front of us, but it's hard not to think about the fight that's looming," Edgar said. "I don't want to get criticized for not finishing, so finishing a guy that's never been finished really—that would really put a feather in my cap."
There is also zero risk that Edgar won't get excited for a third fight with Penn, regardless of holding two wins over him already. Edgar isn't the kind of fighter that needs personal vendettas or grudge matches to get him ready to go to war.
He just loves the competition of it all, and facing Penn is always going to be a challenge.
"There's never going to be a fight I'm not going to get up for, and I'll never make the mistake of thinking just because I beat BJ twice that I'm going to go in there and take it easy," Edgar said. "BJ is still a big threat. People see his past fights at 170, I just don't think 170 was the best weight class for him anyways. I think you're going to see a BJ at 145, and I'm going to be ready for that. You'll never catch me slipping or slacking because I think I'm going to steam roll, and BJ's definitely not the guy you want to make that mistake with."
The fight with Penn won't take place until deep into 2014 after the show finishes filming and airs on Fox Sports 1 starting in April next year. Edgar's goal right now is to get his team set up to travel to Las Vegas in a month's time to get ready to coach The Ultimate Fighter.
While final preparations are still being made, Edgar revealed that his jiu-jitsu coach and good friend Ricardo Almeida, as well as head coach and boxing guru Mark Henry, will definitely make up part of his staff for the show. He also expects to bring wrestling coach Steve Rivera to Las Vegas to help his team, and if the timing works out Edgar is hoping to bring legendary coach Renzo Gracie for at least a guest spot on the show.
All told, Edgar is looking at this as a big chance to raise his profile with UFC fans and coach against one of the all-time greats in MMA history.
"It's something that I've never done before so it's going to bring different challenges and just different experiences," Edgar said. "The exposure can't hurt either."
Edgar will leave for Las Vegas in about a month to begin filming for The Ultimate Fighter 19, and then head home to New Jersey to begin his full training camp to get ready for a third fight against Penn in 2014.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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