Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
I've read Kid Nate's piece twice, and as an unabashed Edgar fan, my instinct is to make sure each tomato and head of lettuce intended to be thrown his way have all been spiked with fulminated mercury.
But alas, I'm a gentleman. And I'd like to think a professional. And not secretly Walter White.
I get where Nate is coming from, though. In MMA, we want forward movement. We want a sense that each division, and the champions that represent them provide us with a taste for the future. Frankie Edgar, despite his best efforts, hasn't given us that.
In his six fights for the UFC LW title, he's only fought three different opponents. Chances are, that statistic won't be duplicated in this lifetime. But it's an illustration of Edgar's ability, which some might describe as borderline penurious*. He's not much of a finisher, doesn't dominate, and critics argue that he's simply a point fighter in the same vein as Dominick Cruz, but without the epileptic theatrics.
There's a reasonable concern in Nate's well written polemic. With Edgar out of the way, the division can finally move forward. The division has been harsh on its contenders, after all. Anthony Pettis would have been saved from the bounce-and-posture nonoffense of Clay Guida after having been promised a title shot.
Guida's win earned him the fight with Henderson, so how does history play out in that scenario? In the meantime, Nate Diaz has to wait patiently, and who knows if the momentum of the division might have compelled Dana to try harder at seeking out Gilbert Melendez' services. While we love to see fighters figure out the division for themselves, promoters must still do a good job of keeping fresh faces on the assembly line for contendership. If they cannibalize each other, contenders begin to lose their sparkle, and thus what makes them compelling as challengers, potential or otherwise (again: see Pettis, although his brutal knockout of Joe Lauzon has allowed everyone to forget the Guida fight).
However, what's strange about the collective sigh of relief from the Edgar critics is the presence of what you might call ‘vitriol' (?). Nate is simply wrong (and those that agree) to claim Edgar has been "boring the daylights" out of us since winning gold. By any standard, Edgar has been compelling. In his five fights since UFC 112, two fights have won Fight of the Night, and another won Knockout of the Night. The two that didn't earn Dana White's loose blackjack change were interesting enough affairs, and what I would hardly call "boring". It's one thing to criticize Edgar's style, but entirely another to revise his history in the landscape for UFC gold.
As Tim Burke articulated, Nate's point on fans wanting clear conclusions is undercut by the many examples that disprove this notion. Tim Sylvia gave us definitive answers about the HW division, and set every room that could host a UFC PPV ablaze with his malodorous scent. Edgar has been the opposite.
Nor should blame fall entirely on Edgar's shoulders, assuming for the sake of argument, that the title fight last night was a tepid affair. Henderson had just as many opportunities to take the fight by the horns, and did nothing. One could argue he sabotaged his performance by abandoning the leg kicks that won him the first round.
As this is not meant to be a point by point rebuttal of Nate's article, I think a broader, more important point gets missed whenever fans moan about ‘fighters that are boring'.
My childhood was a 16-bit one. I loved the hell out of my Super Nintendo, much of which is owed solely to Blizzard's Rock N'Roll Racing.
My point is not to reveal what a nerd I was, and continue to be. My point is that most great games also had tough bosses. The worst sin a video game could commit was giving players a pattern to beat the final boss that could be figured out in the same amount of time it takes an employee at a McDonald's to prepare your medium fries. There's an equivalent here in MMA where fans want their fighters simple.
None of this is meant to argue you're not allowed to find Frankie Edgar boring. That's fine. The sin is in the desire to see "boring fighters" disappear from relevance. To want that final boss in the video game after so much hard work to be brought down with simply down, down, up, up, right, left, right, left, A+ B.
In the rematch with BJ Penn, Edgar proved to be the better fighter. Edgar may not be dominant, but I can't figure out why people want their cheat codes. Don't people want to see who can solve Edgar's speed, precision, and calculation? Because it sure wasn't Henderson last night, regardless of the decision. Edgar is exactly what a proper champion should be: difficult for his opponents.
So perhaps I speak for myself when I say, no, I'm not glad Frankie was robbed (admittedly not a term I think is valid, as I felt the fight was incredibly close so take the title with a grain of salt). I think it sucks. Not because Edgar lost, but because the clear conclusion Nate speaks of, the clear conclusions Nate claims we all want, eluded us last night.
There should be no free lunch in this sport. That's the reality of a real sport. Don't like it? Drama and the unexpected the way you want it is that way.
*I had to look it up too.