It's about exposure. It's about making the fans want to tune in to see you every week over the course of 12 weeks to see you and your opposing coach. It's about building your brand. It's about turning yourself from former champion into marketable pay-per-view commodity. That's how Frankie Edgar is approaching his upcoming stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter.
The UFC has announced that former UFC lightweight champion Edgar will coach season 19 of TUF opposite former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn. When the season wraps the two coaches will meet for a third time inside the Octagon.
The first time the two met, at UFC 112, Edgar defeated Penn by unanimous decision. The victory ended Penn's reign as lightweight champion. An immediate rematch at UFC 118 produced the same result, a unanimous decision victory for Edgar.
Edgar would hold the title for one draw and one successful defense before losing the belt to Benson Henderson at UFC 144 and failing to defeat Henderson in a rematch at UFC 150.
A drop to featherweight followed for Edgar. He faced UFC champion Jose Aldo in his first fight at 145 pounds. Edgar lost that fight by unanimous decision. He would rebound from that defeat with a unanimous decision win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 162.
Penn would bounce back from his consecutive losses to Edgar with a 21-second knockout of Matt Hughes at UFC 123. He would follow that win with a draw against Jon Fitch. Unanimous decision losses to Nick Diaz and Rory McDonald would follow. Penn has not fought since the loss to McDonald at UFC on Fox 5 in December 2012.
It should be mentioned that Edgar and Penn's third fight will take place at the featherweight limit of 145-pounds, a weight at which Penn has never competed.
Penn, currently unranked, will earn an immediate place in the top ten in the UFC's featherweight division with a win over Edgar. With the UFC's sometimes seemingly arbitrary title fight booking, a Penn victory may even earn him a shot at the featherweight title.
And that unknown manner in which UFC title fights are decided is one of the main reasons that Edgar elected to sign on to coach TUF and fight opposite Penn. Speaking to Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Edgar said:
It's not always about who is most deserving. It's about who is the most popular and can sell the most pay-per-views. This show can only help that.
Edgar is currently the third ranked fighter in the UFC's featherweight division, a division stacked with fighters that are chomping at the bit to get a shot at current divisional kingpin Jose Aldo. With his recent loss to Aldo, Edgar's most expedient path back to a title shot may very well be through TUF and Penn.
Now it's up to Edgar to sell that idea to the UFC fans and matchmakers with his performance as a TUF coach and a third victory over Penn.
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