Coach's Corner: Ali Abdel-Aziz says Frankie Edgar is a natural born leader
JUN 03, 2014 8:01p ET
Frankie Edgar didn't need to seek out an all-star team of coaches to help him on this season of The Ultimate Fighter because he already had them at his home gym between New Jersey and New York.
Over the last few years, Edgar has amassed a list of top coaches and training partners to get him ready for fights including former UFC middleweight and welterweight contender Ricardo Almeida, boxing coach Mark Henry as well as jiu-jitsu legend Renzo Gracie. Amongst his sparring partners and coaches was also his manager, Ali Abdel-Aziz, who just happened to be a former Olympian in Judo.
Abdel-Aziz made the trip to Las Vegas for the six weeks to help Edgar with his team wherever he was needed. The goal according to Edgar's assistant coach was to build an atmosphere just like what they had at home to get these fighters ready for the journey ahead of becoming the next Ultimate Fighter.
"I liked it, it was a good time for me," Abdel-Aziz told the Great MMA Debate podcast. "I helped a little bit with some stuff, but I mainly trained and sparred with the guys. They were a little too big for me, but I really enjoyed it. Some of the stuff I know I shared it with them and under the supervision of Frankie Edgar, and Ricardo Almeida, and Renzo Gracie, and Mark Henry, it was a great team. I really, really enjoyed it."
“Frankie Edgar now wants to come and punish people. I was talking about this with him the other day he's like 'forget about decisions, I'm going to finish people, I'm tired of judges ruining my life'”
Edgar has stated in the past that when he's in a fight, his coaches play a major role in his performance because he likes to pretend he's a video game character and the corner men sitting cage side have the controller. As a student of the game, Edgar quickly adapted to his new role of head coach teaching a team of eight UFC hopefuls as they worked towards a dream of joining him one day in the Octagon.
"Frankie, the guy's a leader. He's an amazing coach," Abdel-Aziz said. "A lot of people are going to be shocked at how good of a coach he is. The proof's in the pudding. Frankie's so competitive at everything he does and he wants to be the best at whatever he does. If he walks next to a guy and he wants to race to a restaurant, he'll race you there, he'll race you to the water fountain, he wants to beat you in whatever he does."
Edgar's coaching tactics made him such a popular figure amongst his team that several fighters that worked under him are also traveling to New Jersey to continue the work they started on the reality show.
Light heavyweight fighter Corey Anderson worked there for a couple of weeks recently and Abdel-Aziz paid him a compliment by saying "he's the only guy that can maybe keep up with Frankie." Patrick Walsh is also expected to stop by the gym at some point soon as well as Ian Stephens, who is currently working with the team following his stint on the show.
The craziest thing about Stephens according to Abdel-Aziz is that even though he didn't make it out of the quarterfinal round (under highly questionable circumstances), the former college wrestler could end up being the most talented fighter to come off the show.
"Ian (Stephens) might be the best talent on the show," Abdel-Aziz said. "He beat the Bellator champ (Lyman Good) for God's sake with only four fights. Ian is the guy, he can become a world champion. He's only 24 years old, he's a good wrestler, he's a great athlete. He's built like a brick house. I train with him personally and I know he's one of the best guys in the house."
Since the show ended, Edgar has also intensified his training as he gears up for his upcoming fight against B.J. Penn on July 6 at the TUF 19 finale. Despite already holding two wins over Penn in the past, Edgar is approaching this fight like an underdog and ready to tear his fellow Ultimate Fighter coach apart.
Abdel-Aziz says Edgar is as fierce as ever in training except there's been one major change in his demeanor going into this fight and that might not bode well for Penn.
"I want to make a statement about Frankie -- Frankie's a guy arguably he beat Ben Henderson two times, I really believe he beat (Jose) Aldo and I hear Dana (White) talking about (Renan) Barao or Gilbert Melendez or whoever in the pound-for-pound list, how is Frankie Edgar not in the top three or four? He's a future hall of famer, he's a hero, he's a guy that inspires people," Abdel-Aziz said. "I guarantee, Frankie Edgar will be a champion within a year.
"Frankie Edgar now wants to come and punish people. I was talking about this with him the other day he's like 'forget about decisions, I'm going to finish people, I'm tired of judges ruining my life'."