NEW YORK — Frankie Edgar is in a tough spot. He’s fighting a guy who he’s already beaten twice. And, on top of that, his main event comes on a show just 24 hours after UFC 175, which is headlined by a pair of title fights.
"It’s just going to be tough," Edgar said Tuesday at a UFC media luncheon in Manhattan. "You got Chris Weidman fighting, Ronda Rousey. Two title fights. I just hope we don’t get overshadowed by it."
The biggest wins of Edgar’s career came against Penn. He took the UFC lightweight title from Penn in April 2010 and then successfully defended it against the Hawaiian star four months later.
On July 6, Edgar will try to defeat Penn once again at the Ultimate Fighter Finale in Las Vegas. This time, the fight will be at featherweight.
Edgar, 32, is still regarded as one of the best 145-pound fighters in the world, while Penn, 35, has never fought at the weight class and hasn’t won a fight in four years. So how does this fight make sense for Edgar exactly?
A win over B.J., as long as the landscape is right, I could see an immediate title shot after that.
Coaching on The Ultimate Fighter was a lure. The show premieres Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Edgar said it was initially supposed to be against Urijah Faber, but Faber didn’t want to come back up to 145 and Edgar wouldn’t go down. Penn was interested in avenging his previous two losses and Edgar agreed on the trilogy.
"I’m pretty easy," Edgar said. "I’m a yes man, especially when it’s [UFC president] Dana [White] asking. … Doing the show was rewarding enough. Any time you fight B.J. Penn it’s going to be a big fight. He’s still a very big fighter and a threat. I think it’ll help me."
Edgar (16-9-2) cut to 145 after losing his 155-pound belt and then a rematch to Benson Henderson, both close decisions. He was immediately given a title shot against featherweight champion Jose Aldo, which he also lost by decision. Edgar beat Charles Oliveira last April, but hasn’t fought since then. He’s currently No. 2 in the UFC featherweight contender rankings behind Chad Mendes.
The way Edgar figures it, Penn might not be highly ranked right now, but he’s a name. And beating him again could be enough to get a rematch with Aldo.
"It’s not always who’s the most deserving to get a title shot, it’s kind of timing," Edgar said. "Timing matters. Popularity matters and being on the show is going to make me a more popular fighter. … A win over B.J., as long as the landscape is right I could see an immediate title shot after that."
But what if he loses? Penn is a legend, one of only two men to win titles in the UFC at two different weight classes. Penn has never made 145 before, but seems rejuvenated by the prospect of a new weight class and a third meeting with Edgar.
"Whenever you hear about B.J. it’s always, [is he] motivated now or not?" Edgar said. "For me, it’s something you live every day, motivation and wanting to put the work in. It’s not something you can just wake up one day and say, you know what? I’m gonna start being motivated."
As for a fight with Faber, something fans have been interested in for years, Edgar said he could see it happening down the line. He doesn’t plan on going down to 135, but Faber could always come up. And Edgar said he could still return to 155.
"In my mind, I feel like I never really lost [the title]," he said. "It’s nice to have that option in my back pocket. … The way it happened just left a bad taste in my mouth."
But for now, he’s not going to sleep on Penn. Because he’s been on the other side of things. No one has been an underdog and won in the UFC more than Edgar.
"I’m sure I’m going to be the favorite this time and everyone will write B.J. off," Edgar said. "I keep that fresh in my mind, because I was written off and I proved everybody wrong. I’m going to make sure he doesn’t return the favor."