Frankie Edgar not only remains one of the elite fighters in the world, he’s the epitome of what a mixed martial artist should be.
He’ll fight anyone. He always makes weight and comes into the cage in superb shape, ready to fight at his highest level.
He’s among the sport’s most consistently entertaining fighters, and he’s accessible and generous with his time.
That is the kind of guy who helped Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta turn the UFC from a moribund business into a company valued roughly the same as the Dallas Cowboys.
Edgar will take on the fast-rising Yair Rodriguez a week from Saturday on the main card of UFC 211 at American Airlines Arena in Dallas in a fight that on paper looks among the best on a loaded show.
Edgar, though, is 35, and there is a blemish on his record that makes one wonder whether this is the old-school matchmaking that pits an accomplished but fading veteran against the little-known but promising young star.
It’s not that, Edgar insists, and he vows he’s no steppingstone for anyone.
“I feel confident in my ability and I think except for maybe one or two times where I didn’t fight to the best of my ability, I’ve always shown up and gone out there and gave it my all,” he said. “I’ve been fighting pretty much the best guys in the world for the last 10 years or so, and I still think I deserve to be considered in that group.”
That said, he quietly has a trend going that is not good, and is similar to dogged ex-UFC star Urijah Faber. Edgar has won six of his last seven, but since 2012, he’s 6-4.
The notable thing about those four losses is that each of them came in UFC championship matches. Four times, he lost by decision, and three times, they were extremely close. He lost decisions to Benson Henderson at UFC 144 and UFC 150 at lightweight in 2012, then lost a featherweight championship bout to Jose Aldo at UFC 156 on Feb. 2, 2013. And then he lost again in an interim featherweight title fight at UFC 200, when Aldo cruised to a victory by a wide margin.
“That last Aldo fight, it was a clearcut win for him, no question about it,” Edgar said. “But I don’t think there is anything significant about those other ones. In any of them, in all of them, I could have walked away the winner. At this level, when you’re fighting those kinds of guys, there are going to be close fights.”
Edgar is 15-5-1 in his UFC career, but is 12-1 in non-title bouts. That is the mark of an elite and still-relevant fighter.
And while Edgar is hopeful that he can find himself in another title fight later this year, he knows that for multiple reasons that he can’t control, it may not happen.
First is the fact that Aldo and Max Holloway will fight next month at UFC 212 for the title. Edgar has lost to Aldo twice, the most recent being at UFC 200 last summer, and so it’s unlikely he’d get another title shot soon if Aldo wins.
It might be different, though, if it is Holloway, whom Edgar hasn’t fought.
The other thing that is out of his hand is the recent matchmaking, which hasn’t exactly been logical. Much attention has been put on middleweight champion Michael Bisping, who made his first title defense last year against Dan Henderson and will defend it later this year against Georges St-Pierre. St-Pierre hasn’t fought in three-and-a-half years and has never fought at middleweight.
That’s created consternation among some fighters. Edgar is certainly not ripping Bisping or others in his shoes for trying to make the most money possible, but he said it’s becoming harder to know what to expect.
“The fighters, I think, would prefer a more orderly structure in terms of how to get a title shot, but I get it as a fan,” Edgar said. “I get it why some of the fighters – take Bisping, who wants to fight GSP – I get that, too. I get it. He’s in a position where he can make some good money fighting a guy like GSP. He’s going to make good money for that fight.
“But I also get it that Anderson [Silva] is upset and doesn’t like what they’re doing with the title picture. I don’t dwell on that too much, but to me, it would make sense if there were a real ranking system, but look, we’re in the entertainment business, and if there are fights people want to see, the UFC is going to make them.”
There are a number of good contenders to fight the Aldo-Holloway winner, with the Edgar-Rodriguez winner and Cub Swanson being chief among them.
The key thing, though, is that despite those title-fight defeats, Edgar has been at or near the top of the game longer than just about anyone else in the UFC.
His level of consistency has been astounding.
That should count for something.
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