Remember Frankie Edgar?
That guy was great.
He'd go into a fight looking like your little brother who wrestled in high school, then beat the snot out of legends and lightweight leviathans alike.
Knock him down? He's right back up and in your face.
Win a round? He's going to come back and win the next four.
Think you're going to take his title from him in an endless run of rematches? He's game, and he'll knock you out in the last one just for an exclamation point.
Yeah, that Frankie Edgar guy was pretty great.
But where has he been? He fought Jose Aldo in a fight he kind of earned by getting hosed out of a title win in another division, then he fought a dude who hadn't earned it on merit but gave him a great scrap anyway, then he just disappeared.
He actually agreed to coach against longtime nemesis BJ Penn on The Ultimate Fighter, something of a weird turn for both men. Penn was basically retired, Edgar was hunting for another title shot.
But those old flames die hard. When Penn came calling for a third fight, Edgar put his aspirations of gold on hold for a year to dance with the one that brought him to the dance of MMA relevance.
Now, finally, they'll get down to business in about a month. Only, with a year off, one has to wonder: Can Frankie Edgar return to greatness?
A year is a long time to hit pads and roll lightly for the sake of technique.
It's a long time to not punch someone or be punched by someone if that's the line of work you're in.
It's all even longer when you're in your prime competing in a sport where the idea of a "prime" can be pretty fragile sometimes.
So Edgar will try to overcome that break and the odds that come along with it. Penn is a good test to do that against, a guy Edgar's beaten twice and who hasn't competed since 2012 himself, but the risk is always there.
What if you lost it while you sat out for a year? What if getting up from being knocked down, or coming back to steal all those rounds after absorbing tremendous damage, took a toll that you didn't see in all those technique sessions?
That's the danger of a sport as risky as MMA: What happens in the cage is dangerous enough; what happens while you're waiting to get there can sometimes be just as bad. As a great prophet once said, "the waiting is the hardest part."
Frankie Edgar has been waiting for a year now.
He was great when he left—will he be when he comes back?