Frankie Edgar, the pride of Toms River, New Jersey, flew to Las Vegas last week to claim something many felt he already deserved -- a shot at the UFC's featherweight title.
Edgar has done nothing but win in the past two years, picking off some of the sport's most recognizable names in BJ Penn, Cub Swanson and Urijah Faber. He's been denied a title shot though, mostly due to the meteoric rise of Irish sensation (and new featherweight champion) Conor McGregor.
Last weekend was an interesting one in that, for the first time, the UFC promoted three events in three consecutive days. Edgar (20-4-1) headlined the middle card against three-time title contender Chad Mendes. The three days culminated in a featherweight championship fight between Jose Aldo and McGregor at UFC 194 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.
What was the experience like for Edgar, and did he end up claiming that coveted title shot? The former lightweight champion allowed ESPN.com to follow him through a crazy week in MMA.
The forgotten man
Edgar checked into the MGM Grand on Monday, Dec. 7. The hotel was filled with banners promoting UFC 194's title fight between Aldo and McGregor. Even with that event scheduled for one day after his fight against Mendes, Edgar said it wasn't difficult to focus on the task at hand. "Of course, the title is looming," Edgar said. "But I don't think people understand the pressure I always put on myself. Everyone has doubts and you have to try and make that doubt go away. 'I'm not f---ing losing.' That's how I approach things on any fight week."
On Wednesday, the day prior to Edgar's weigh-in, he works out in an MGM room around 9 p.m., local time. Even as a featherweight, Edgar's weight cut is more manageable than most, meaning he has plenty of energy to get useful work in all week. "I work out at the time I think I'm going to fight, to get the body clock right," Edgar said. "I work out pretty hard, even the day before. I do five rounds of work."
No ups or downs
"At the beginning of my career, I'd come out for a fight week and I'd be feeling nerves the entire time. I'd have trouble sleeping all week. All I would do is think about the fight. Now, I don't get that until fight day. Sometimes, I'm even like, 'Man, I'm worried because I'm so damn calm.' Once you've had that title and you've been the main event -- I'd say after I had been in a main event, my nerves started getting better and better."
Weigh-ins for TUF 22 Finale were held on Thursday afternoon in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The UFC hosted an open workout with McGregor and Aldo beforehand. By the time of the weigh-in, many fans had trickled out, leaving mostly friends, family and media members. By comparison, approximately 9,000 fans watched McGregor and Aldo get on the scale the following day's for UFC 194. "I knew it was going to be tough to not be overshadowed this week," Edgar said.
In and out
Edgar's walkout, always to "Kick in the Door" by The Notorious B.I.G., is one of the most well-known in the sport. He ran to the Octagon for the 19th time on Friday. As he was preparing to do so, Edgar saw UFC president Dana White leave the arena to attend to something backstage. Considering he was about to make a case for a title shot, it was slightly jarring to see the man who makes those decisions walk out. "I saw him walking out as I was getting ready to walk in," Edgar said. "I don't think he ever made it back out. I think he watched it from the back."
Here comes the boom!
Edgar wins via knockout at 2:28 of the first round, the fastest finish of his career. "No one expected this out of me," Edgar said. "I thought I was going to put a stamp on it, but more Frankie-esque. I thought I would grind it out and get a finish late. Did I expect to knock him out in the first round? I'll be honest, I didn't expect that -- but I didn't think it couldn't happen."
The waiting period
At the TUF 22 Finale postfight news conference, White praised Edgar's performance, saying, "he'll get whatever he wants." Edgar later said, "It's awesome he said that. Everybody heard it. I do believe I have a title shot right now, but you know, s--- happens and there's a big fight tomorrow. Whatever happens in that fight though, I think fans will be calling for me to get the shot."
Circle of friends
Edgar's team is a close-knit as you'll find in the sport. Included in those who celebrated his win on Friday were his wife, Renee, his parents, a lifelong wrestling coach he's known since he was a kid, one of his first teammates in the sport, a close friend from Toms River, his team and his manager, Ali Abdelaziz. "I do feel right now like I've got the title shot," Edgar said from the edge of his hotel bed. "I'm not going to whether I do or don't ruin my night though. It's out of my hands. If Aldo wins decisively, that's probably the best scenario for me -- but I think if Conor goes out and finishes him quick, that won't warrant an immediate rematch."
Did I get it?
Edgar and Renee were in attendance for UFC 194 on Saturday. McGregor unified the featherweight title by knocking out Aldo in a title fight record 13 seconds. "I didn't know right then and there what it meant for me," Edgar said. "I try to be positive but in that situation, after how close I've been to getting a title shot and getting passed over in the last couple years, I definitely felt a little negative about it. Someone from the UFC came to get me and brought me to the steps of the Octagon, so I thought, 'maybe they're going to announce this right here!' Then Dana came down and says, 'No, you're not going in there. We don't know what we're going to do. Conor might go up in weight.'"
Is Edgar next for McGregor? Who knows
After the featherweight title fight, Edgar attended the news conference to get an idea of where he stood. White did not attend, however, and McGregor took so long to arrive that Edgar left. Before Edgar took off, media members swarmed him to get his thoughts on what happened. "I talked to a bunch of press and made my case," Edgar said. "In hindsight, I wish I would have known Conor was coming and stayed. I thought, 'This guy's not showing up.'" When McGregor did arrive, he stated he would not vacate the 145-pound title, but seemed to lean toward moving up in weight for his next bout and fighting for the lightweight championship.
"I want to fight Conor"
"That's really the bottom line. I want to fight Conor for the featherweight title. He's the champion right now. I don't want him going anywhere. I really believe I can beat him. People are calling for this fight. I think it's the most sellable fight Conor has right now. For me, it's about the belt, but I want to beat the guy who has the belt. I don't want to beat some other guy because whoever had the belt left. Even if I won the featherweight title, I'd still want to fight Conor because he was the last guy to have it. I think [this weekend's lightweight title fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone in Orlando] will have a lot to do with what Conor does. I'm just going to keep putting myself in the best position to get that fight.
Wife knows best
Team Edgar. "I'll call Dana myself if we don't get the title shot." -- Renee, on the night of Frankie's knockout over Mendes.