The triumphs of Frankie Edgar, recounted by those who were there

Frankie Edgar reigned as UFC lightweight champion from 2010 to 2012, and on Saturday he has an opportunity to return to the top, this time at featherweight. Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It has been more than seven years since Frankie Edgar held a UFC championship. He will look to end that dry spell Saturday, when he challenges featherweight king Max Holloway at UFC 240 in Edmonton, Alberta.

Win or lose, Edgar (23-6-1) already owns one of the most distinguished careers in MMA history. Saturday will mark his ninth UFC title fight, the first coming in 2010, when he shocked the world by dethroning all-time great BJ Penn to become lightweight champ. But Edgar's reputation goes beyond simple résumé items. Whenever he hangs up his gloves, he'll be remembered as one of the most resilient fighters in the sport, a man who spent the majority of his career in a weight class many said was too heavy for him. He has fought back from the brink of crushing defeat more than once. And he has never been one to talk himself up. He has always done his talking in the cage.

At 37, Edgar says he still has plenty left in the tank, and winning a second title this weekend would certainly add significantly to his Hall of Fame-caliber list of accomplishments. Going into what could be another landmark night for him, ESPN asked Edgar's coaches, training partners, friends and family to share, in their own words, their favorite memory from his 14 years as a professional fighter.

Steve Rivera, Edgar's wrestling coach since seventh grade

July 10, 2005, the Bronx: New York Underground, first-round TKO over Eric Uresk

This was Frankie's first MMA fight. He got this opportunity [at age 23] for an underground fight and he was intrigued by it. We drove out from New Jersey. Frankie has always had a great support system, and we rolled deep into the Bronx, man. It was crazy. It was as crazy as you would expect an underground fight scene to be.

There were two boxing rings set up next to each other, and we all stood on the one he wasn't fighting in. How this fight even ended up on his record, none of us understand that. It was in a gym they'd just turned into a fight room. And I'll tell you, the blood stains on the canvas were so legit, it was like they'd been holding fights there every day.

I've been around Frankie since he was a kid, so I knew there was violence in him. But it was still an "Oh my God, you're really doing this s---" kind of moment. Eric was the local guy, so everybody was cheering for him except the posse we brought. Frankie had never done it before, so he came out a little hesitant, and Eric hit him with a knee that broke his cheekbone. All he did was lift his head up and look at the guy like, "Oh, you're dead." It was awesome. It was like, "Oh, yeah. We're doing this, and Frankie is gonna be good at it."

We all went to dinner after, and there was this mirror in the lobby, and that's where Frankie blew his nose and we literally watched his eye go from normal to there being an air pocket under it. None of us knew that you shouldn't blow your nose after breaking something [in your face], because air will leak through your cheek. One of the dudes in our posse, his mom is a nurse. So we call her up and we're like, "What's going on here?" And she told us he probably broke a facial bone. So we're at dinner with his parents, and he is literally rubbing the air out of his eye, pushing this pocket back towards his ear. It was classic.

Mark Henry, striking coach

May 23, 2009, Las Vegas: UFC 98, unanimous decision over Sean Sherk

The Sherk fight was big because it was, "Does Frankie belong or does he not belong?" That was when he was climbing the ladder. So many guys climb the ladder, but once they get to a top-three guy, they lose and find out they're a gatekeeper. I remember saying to him right before, "We're about to find out what you're all about."

That was also a fight where Frankie needed to [do] more than wrestle. At that point, he was just wrestling everybody. That was the first camp he was finally throwing more kicks. His jiu-jitsu was getting better. He had confidence in his boxing. Everything kind of clicked together, and he shut out Sean Sherk in a unanimous decision.

Sean was supposed to beat Frankie and fight for the title next. That was a foregone conclusion. Frankie beat him, and I remember everybody told me Sean was so mad, he ran the streets of Vegas that night with no shoes on -- right from the locker room. They said he still had his trunks on and he was running the Strip.

That fight was also the evolution into the Frankie we know today. I basically had to come up with a different style for him, because the guys he was fighting at lightweight were 20 pounds heavier. He couldn't stand in front of guys. We had to develop a style that would allow him to live past three years, fighting those bigger guys.

Ricardo Almeida, jiu-jitsu coach

April 10, 2010, Abu Dhabi: UFC 112, unanimous decision over BJ Penn for the UFC title

I had actually fought on the same card as BJ the year before [UFC 101], when he fought Kenny Florian in Philadelphia, and there was this aura of invincibility around him. I remember we got to Abu Dhabi and one of Anderson Silva's managers told me, "How is it even possible for Frankie to beat BJ?" That was pretty much [what we heard] anywhere we went -- there was no way Frankie could beat BJ.

A lot of people don't know this, but Frankie fought BJ that first time with a staph infection. I think a lot of those infections have to do with your immune system and the level of stress you have during fight week. I remember we won the fight, got back to the hotel and Frankie said, "Look at my leg." And he had staph.

I had to look all over Abu Dhabi for antibiotics. We ended up paying a couple hundred dollars for it to be delivered to the hotel in the middle of the night.

Mary Annese, mother

April 10, 2010, Abu Dhabi: UFC 112, unanimous decision over BJ Penn for the UFC title

All through high school, he worked so hard at wrestling. His junior year, he took second [in the state]. His senior year, he was supposed to win the whole thing, and his last match went to like triple overtime or something and he lost. Even in college, he came up short again. His final year, he was wrestling in the NCAA championships, and he took seventh or eighth.

I think deep inside I was very nervous about him fighting for the title, because I didn't want him to face another disappointment like that. And when he won, I was like, "To me, this takes everything else away, all the disappointments you had." The flight back to the U.S., I don't think we could wipe the smile off his face. He was so happy. For him to finally be able to say he was a champion, I still get goose bumps talking about it.

And the best part was when we got back to the town we lived in [Toms River, New Jersey], they had a parade for him. It was amazing to see everybody from our town show up in the Kohl's parking lot, just to honor my son. That was so cool.

Before the fight, I was used to people counting Frankie out. Growing up, he was always small. Whenever he went out, he was the one who was going to get picked on, because kids didn't think he was a threat. When he was going into his freshman year of high school, he was down at Seaside Park on the boardwalk, and these older guys started mouthing off to him. Frankie was 14, these kids were like 19 or 20, and my son beat the crap out of them. Just beat the crap out of them.

I remember the whole wrestling team bringing him home, opening my front door and just throwing him in the house. His knees were all scraped up and bloody, and everybody was like, "I can't believe this kid." He's small and doesn't look like he's gonna hurt anyone, but he's always been a fighter.

Renee Edgar, wife

April 10, 2010, Abu Dhabi: UFC 112, unanimous decision over BJ Penn for the UFC title

What I remember most is being eight months pregnant with our second child, on a 14-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. And being eight months pregnant, sitting in the stands, literally having contractions. I remember being outside, sweating, because the fight was outside in the desert. And I just remember being really happy when he won.

I knew when we got the fight I would be OK. My doctors were like, "We know you're not gonna listen to us if we tell you not to go, so we won't tell you not to go." It was annoying the fight was that far away and I was pregnant, but for a title, we would have fought anywhere. It was a long trip, and I didn't get to do any of the fun stuff like riding camels or taking a jeep through the desert, but I loved it, experiencing a different culture. It was beautiful over there.

After the fight, because it went all five rounds, I turned to Ali [Abdelaziz, Edgar's manager] and was like, "He had to have won that, right? I mean, he won that!" I turned to everyone sitting around me and said, "He won that!" I was sure he won it, but at the same time, I was waiting [for the judges' scorecards]. He dominated the whole thing, so I was pretty confident, but I had to wait for the final outcome before getting excited. Then I was just crying with happiness. I was so happy for him.

And then [at the airport], they tried to not let me go home. They looked at the doctor's note I had but wanted to keep me there. You can't [fly] international at eight months pregnant. I had left [from New Jersey] before I was eight months. On the return, I was a couple days over eight months. So I almost got stuck in Abu Dhabi, but it ended up fine. We made it back.

Chris Liguori, longtime training partner

Aug. 28, 2010, Boston: UFC 118, unanimous decision over BJ Penn to defend the UFC title

So we had gone to Abu Dhabi when BJ was on the run of all runs, and we were definitely sent out there to be the sacrificial lamb. Without actually saying it, everybody made us feel that way. We were the only ones who thought he would win.

We get back, and there's a parade. We got the belt. We're all good and happy, and about two days later, Frankie calls and says, "We're fighting BJ again. They already gave us a date." And I was like, "You don't even get to be champion for a week."

That second camp was different, though. We believed we could beat him the first time; now we knew we could. But the world was saying it had been a close fight, and you could tell BJ, leading up to it, he still had this feeling in his head like, "The first one was a fluke. I'm gonna run through this kid and go back to where I was."

The first round of the fight, Frankie shoots on him, BJ stops it at first, but then Frankie gets around his back a little, stands him up and boom, sits him down on the mat. And that takedown right there, we knew we had it. Nobody took BJ down much back then, and to come in and literally shoot and dump him like that, like Frankie had done with everyone else, just like that, the last of BJ's aura was gone.

Marlon Moraes, UFC bantamweight and training partner

Oct. 8, 2011, Houston: UFC 136, fourth-round knockout over Gray Maynard to defend UFC title

I wasn't even training with Frankie yet. I think I watched the fight from a bar in New Jersey. I couldn't believe he knocked him out. No one would have expected him to finish Gray like that. They had just fought to a draw the fight before, and Gray looked a lot stronger. He almost had Frankie finished in that fight.

We expected if Frankie won [the rematch], it would be a decision. Gray was doing well in the fight, and then Frankie came back and finished him. It's one of the biggest moments in MMA ever, in my opinion.

Ali Abdelaziz, manager

Dec. 11, 2015, Las Vegas: The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, first-round knockout over Chad Mendes

Chad had just fought Conor McGregor that summer. What happened was, Conor was supposed to fight Jose Aldo, but Aldo got injured and was going to be replaced by either Frankie or Chad. Frankie is the one guy Conor and the UFC always avoided. Frankie was in shape and wanted that fight, but they chose Chad because they knew he wasn't in shape. He was camping when they called him. And he lost to Conor.

When the UFC asked Frankie to fight Chad, later that year, I thought stylistically it was one of our hardest fights. Chad was knocking everyone out. He was dangerous. But he was coming off a loss, so I didn't think Frankie needed to fight him. It was a risky fight, but Frankie went against all of us and said he wanted it. And the UFC told Frankie he would fight Conor next if he won.

Frankie is one those guys I never watch from the arena. I am always so nervous. I was in the locker room when he knocked Chad out, and I ran so hard from the back. I jumped into the cage and picked him up on my shoulders. That is one of my favorite moments in this sport, because I felt somebody tried to stick it to Frankie in that Conor situation. I truly believed that wasn't right.

In the moment, though, I didn't give a flying f--- about Conor. I was just thinking about how this legend had knocked out the knockout artist.