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Florian picking a fight with Edgar

Kenny Florian, top, has set his sights on challenging lightweight contender Frankie Edgar. Ed Mulholland/ESPN.com

Shortly after defeating Roger Huerta by unanimous decision on Aug. 9, lightweight contender Kenny Florian turned his attention to the future.

Florian is eager to face UFC champion B.J. Penn, but knows that encounter isn't likely to happen for some time.

In the meantime, Florian wants back in the Octagon before the year is over and has targeted Dec. 27 as his return date. He isn't interested in facing a pushover, either.

Florian wants to cement himself as the lightweight division's top contender. In order to achieve that distinction, he has taken aim at some of the best fighters in his weight class.

While Florian has named several top lightweights as potential opponents, the fighter he's mentioned most prominently has been Frankie Edgar. The Toms River, N.J., resident represents everything Florian wants in an opponent.

"He's beaten a lot of tough guys," Florian told ESPN.com. "Tyson Griffin, another title contender, Frankie beat him; he just beat a former title contender, Hermes Franca, in my opinion, rather easily.

"He's had a lot of fights on pay-per-view, on TV. People know his name and he's a Division I All-American [wrestler]. He's a tough matchup for anyone."

That's not all. In addition to solid wrestling skills, Edgar brings speed, strength and improved boxing technique into the cage.

Those physical traits are just what Florian wants to tackle to make the point that he is a much improved fighter since his loss to Sean Sherk in October 2006. Florian can make a big statement with a win over Edgar.

"Frankie Edgar is a guy who has better wrestling credentials than Sean Sherk and he fights in a very similar style to Sean Sherk," said Florian, who is 12-3-0. "He has fast hands, he gets on top of you and he's able to control you.

"I had a lot of trouble against Sean Sherk and I want to prove that I've developed past that, that I have tricks up my sleeve if I'm on my back; that I can stop the wrestling now, that I'm a different opponent."

But Florian wouldn't be the only guy with a point to prove in this match. Edgar also has aspirations of fighting for a title one day, and a win over Florian would bring him a step closer to that dream.

Defeating Florian isn't far-fetched. Edgar has just one loss since coming into the UFC -- Gray Maynard earned a unanimous decision over him in April.

The loss, however, has proven beneficial. Edgar made alterations to his technique (especially in the stand-up) after the loss and revealed some of them July 14 during a unanimous decision over Franca.

"I got my first loss … it is part of the game. But you have to deal with it and come back," Edgar said. "I bounced back from a tough loss and beat a good opponent in Hermes [Franca].

"After a loss you just hope it doesn't happen again and you do what you have to do to make sure it doesn't happen again. It's a tough game and you have to make sure you learn from your losses."

And learn he did. Franca, a solid puncher and owner of a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, was overwhelmed by Edgar.

Edgar, who is the assistant wrestling coach at Rutgers University, never allowed Franca to get set. Combining hand and foot speed with newfound head movement, Edgar proved too elusive for Franca.

Edgar repeatedly landed left-right combinations while avoiding Franca's counter shots. And each time Franca went into a defensive posture, Edgar would shoot and take him to the ground.

His improved stand-up and exceptional ground attack would make for an interesting fight with Florian. It's one reason Edgar wants in the cage with his buddy from Boston.

"Our stand-ups are contrasting. He's got really good Muay Thai; he's real tricky," said Edgar, who sports a pro mark of 9-1-0. "I'm a little more straight-up. It would be a pretty good chess match when it comes to the stand-up.

"He definitely has some length on me [Edgar stands 5-foot-6; Florian, 5-foot-10], but he's not a power fighter. He's more of a technique guy. I don't expect him to overpower me. He's not really in to that; he's more technique and finesse."

Aside from styles, the match just makes sense for Edgar. He wants to be recognized as one of the top 155-pound fighters in UFC. Beating Florian offers that opportunity. And the timing is right.

"He's been ripping through the division since his loss to Sean Sherk. He's definitely next in line … for a title shot," Edgar said. "Fighting him would be the smart thing to do for me in my career.

"Like Kenny, I want to fight the best in my division and right now he might be the No. 1 contender. So, fighting him is kind of a no-brainer. I want to get one [fight] in before the year is out. I would prefer November, but I would wait around to fight Kenny in December."

As for having his name mentioned prominently by Florian? That's fine by Edgar.

"It kind of gives me some recognition," Edgar said. "For a guy like Kenny to consider me as a formidable opponent; he's fought for the title and he's on a lot of people's list for a possible future title shot. So, it's good for me.

"I don't think Kenny's really calling me out; he's just making a statement that he wants to fight tough opponents."

Florian and Edgar are friends. The dropping of Edgar's name was not a show of disrespect by Florian.

"As an athlete, I have a lot of respect for [Frankie Edgar] for what he's accomplished," Florian said. "I respect him as a fighter and a person.

"It was the same with Roger Huerta. I had nothing against Roger; I liked Roger. But he was the best opponent available at the time. … It's nothing personal.

"I want to fight Frankie because he's a great fighter. That's the most important thing. It's about respect, and beating someone like Frankie Edgar will get me more respect."

Franklin McNeil covers boxing and mixed martial arts for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.