Frankie Edgar was supposed to be too small to compete with the top of the lightweight division. B.J. Penn was going to demolish him. Gray Maynard was supposed to rip him to shreds with his unyielding top control. Instead, Edgar moved like lightning - fast, agile, and dangerous. He beat Penn twice, then defended his title against Maynard in one of the sport's all-time best bouts. Edgar was standing on the deck of the retired USS Intrepid in New York yesterday when the UFC lightweight champion took a moment to catch up with Bloody Elbow in an exclusive interview.
Jonathan Snowden: Congratulations on your fight with Gray. I know it wasn't the outcome you were looking for, but I called it one of the best fights in the history of MMA. Having had a chance to reflect on it a bit, what did you take away from the night?
Frankie Edgar: It was a great fight for the fans. I'm proud of my performance and that I was able to bounce back. I'm disappointed that I didn't get the win, but we get to do it again. That will be a treat for the fans and for us too.
Jonathan Snowden: I think it's interesting that you said it was a great fight for the fans. Maybe not a great night for the fighters? I assume that you'd prefer short and easy to 25 minutes and grueling.
Frankie Edgar: You know, I prepare for those fights. Those 25 minute fights. You've got to expect that those can happen. If I can walk away unscathed in a minute, obviously I'd take it. (Laughs). And those will help lengthen your career. But a fight like that with Gray has only done great things for me and my career. My legacy I guess.
Jonathan Snowden: We talked once in an interview about your fighting spirit. At the time you had refused to tap to Tyson Griffin's tight kneebar. Was that first round with Maynard the standing equivalent of that moment? A refusal to give up the fight?
Frankie Edgar: I was definitely a little out of it but I was able to bounce back almost completely. I was kind of on autopilot, let's say that.
Jonathan Snowden: A lot of people were surprised that you were able to do so well competing with him with your wrestling. How were you able to prepare better this time for someone with his wrestling pedigree?
Frankie Edgar: I come from a wrestling background myself, so I knew what Gray would do. I just worked out with some really good guys. I was up at Rutgers University, working out with those guys. I trained with the Montreal Wrestling Club a little bit too and definitely stepped my game up in that area.
Jonathan Snowden: You almost never see a draw in MMA, especially in a fight where no points have been deducted. Were you shocked by the decision?
Frankie Edgar: I was disappointed. You prepare and you train so hard. For victory. To have a fight like that and then not win? It was disappointing. But, it happens.
Jonathan Snowden: MMA uses the 10 point must system the same as boxing. Is that the right way to do things? Or do you prefer the old PRIDE rules where they look at the fight as a whole and just declare a winner?
Frankie Edgar: I really don't know. It's tough. Maybe they could score the rounds and then score the overall fight too? It's going to get better as it goes forward. We're still a young sport.
Jonathan Snowden: You've got a third matchup with Gray. Obviously he's been an incredibly tough opponent for you. What have you learned over the course of the eight rounds you spent in the cage with him?
Frankie Edgar: He''s tough. There are some things we'll go back and look at for sure. I let my team do most of the critiquing and decide what adjustments I have to make. Maybe look to counter some of the stuff that he does. We've got some time before the next fight and we're already working on some things.
Jonathan Snowden: Your career kind of stands apart from the MMA norm. Most fighters, kind of like in wrestling, try to get as big as they can and then cut a lot of weight before the fight. You've always fought pretty close to your natural weight. Does that give you an energy advantage going into the championship rounds with these other guys who have drained their bodies so thoroughly?
Frankie Edgar: I do. It definitely has its advantages, one that I'm not depleted the whole week of the fight. I'm pretty much fighting at the weight I walk around at. I'm pretty comfortable and so far my size and energy have been more than enough. You are at a disadvantage though. You're probably giving up 15-20 pounds the night of the fight.
Jonathan Snowden: There was so much talk of you dropping to 145. Do you think this puts that talk to rest, or with the division now in the UFC is it possible we'll see you at featherweight at some point in your career?
Frankie Edgar: I'm the 155 pound champion and that's where I want to stay. That being said, I could make 145 so it's kind of like a trump card I'm keeping in my back pocket. We'll see what happens.
Jonathan Snowden: You are the champion of the world. You beat B.J. Penn twice and have defended against Gray as well. Do you think you are at the point now where you've finally earned the fan's respect?
Frankie Edgar: I don't know. Who knows? We'll see. You're only as good as your last fight anyway, at least with some of the fans and media. If you have a great performance, they're behind you. If you give a not so great performance they kind of dog you a little bit. That's just the nature of the beast. If I keep doing well, fighting hard, fighting with all my heart, the fans will jump on the wagon.
Jonathan Snowden: What do you think of some of the fighters outside the UFC. There's a guy in Strikeforce, Gilbert Melendez, who believes he's the top fighter in the weight class. Have you seen Gilbert and what do you think of that claim?
Frankie Edgar: I think he's a great fighter. He's the champion of that organization and he proved himself. We're all pretty brash dudes. You've got to be to be a fighter. He beat up some guys, he thinks he's the best. We all think we're the best. That's why we're fighters.
Jonathan Snowden: The UFC has a big card coming up in New Jersey in March. The big topic this week has been the potential legalization of MMA in New York. As a Jersey guy, how big would it be for MMA in the area if we were able to bring New York on board? Right now MMA is kind of dominated by the west coast guys.
Frankie Edgar: MMA is huge in Jersey. Once New York gets sanctioned it's going to double and triple in popularity here. By leaps and bounds. New York's the biggest media market in the country. It would be a dream come true for me to fight in Madison Square Garden. That place was made for combat sports and I'd love to be the first to defend my title there, I tell you that.
The UFC comes back to SPIKE TV Saturday night at Fort Hood with Fight for the Troops 2. The event will be the third the UFC has hosted in cooperation with a US military base.