Googling Edgar vs. Maynard yields thousands of news articles from across the globe. Every conceivable detail of the fighters and their careers is expounded upon.
Their previous two bouts are dissected under a microscope. Pundits and fighters give their opinions about who will win this third fight and why. Videotaped interviews with Maynard and Edgar abound on MMA Internet sites. The UFC produced a one-hour Countdown show on Spike TV and the fighters sat down for a pre-fight presser.
The two dedicated competitors earned this widespread attention because of the grit they displayed in their previous draw. The anticipation to finally obtain resolution is compelling, but the reason for the interest in this bout goes deeper.
In the absence of braggadocio and fight hyping—a la Rampage and Chael Sonnen—Frankie and Gray come across as down-to-earth athletes trying to achieve greatness. It’s an everyman’s struggle we relate to on a visceral level. It’s the battle against fear you had as a kid, crossing the schoolyard in front of the neighborhood bully. Maynard’s nickname fits the script perfectly.
This fight represents a clash of wills more captivating than most MMA championship matchups. These are not huge terrifying fighters with a swath of KOs in their past. These are not invincible superheroes. These are not flamboyant, colorful or loud attention seekers.
We are enraptured by this fight because Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar are “real” people doing what we all quietly wish to do—fight the good fight and win. We can see ourselves in the humble Edgar: unassuming and vulnerable. His nickname, “The Answer” leads us to ask, what is the question?
Which fighter do you identify with more?
We can also relate to the hard-nosed Maynard: single-minded and resolute, a simple man of few words striving to overcome the one obstacle in his journey to the top.
Edgar is often referred to as a small lightweight who could easily compete at 145 or even 135 pounds against men of equal stature. Instead, he chooses to slay dragons at 155 pounds like the legendary BJ Penn, who he beat twice.
Maynard will walk into the cage at UFC 136 somewhere near 170 pounds. In taking on larger opponents, Edgar dons the cloak of David against Goliath, and bears the burden of Atlas carrying the world on his back. He symbolizes the quest of everyman to take on the giant obstacles in life.
I’m glad there is a Frankie Edgar out there to show the way, to set an example that hard work and dedication can yield the impossible. He is a man unafraid to tilt at windmills, to fight the seemingly unwinnable battles, and a man who will lay it all on the line for what he believes.