Frankie Edgar breaks from fighting to coach UFC hopefuls
Orlando, the city widely known for theme parks and a general aura of happiness, will in the coming days play host to an arena of controlled aggression and a slew of fisticuffs.
There is, of course, the upcoming UFC on FOX card Saturday night at the Amway Center. But there will also be the presence of former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Edgar, 32, is in town as part of a promotion for the forthcoming season of ”The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s reality competition TV series. Edgar, along with show participants Hector Urbina and Michael King, will be at a local Hooters restaurant on International Drive as part of a viewing party for both the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Nations season and the premiere of the upcoming season.
The Wednesday event will show the premiere episode as Edgar coaches against former welterweight and lightweight champion B.J. Penn. The longtime format of the series follows 16 fighters (culled down from an original cast of 32 by initial fights early in the season) — this time from the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions — as they live together and train in teams headlined by the coaches.
With the winner of the season receiving a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a contract with the UFC, the competition is expected to be as intense as always.
”You’re sleeping across the hall from the guy you might fight,” Edgar said. ”The fact that you have to fight multiple times in a short area really makes the cream rise to the top. Competition has a way of doing that.”
Edgar has some experience with ”The Ultimate Fighter” — he tried out for the show’s fifth season, when, coincidentally, Penn was a coach — but the show is the first time he really threw himself full time into coaching.
”For the most part, I think (the fighters) really bought into what we were giving them,” said Edgar, who used his normal coaching staff for the season. ”And I think they saw the passion we brought in and they jumped on board.”
Though the season itself will have plenty of intrigue — UFC president Dana White has already offered comments warning of a vicious knockout during the show’s run — the showdown between Edgar and Penn in the finale is certainly a main storyline.
By the time the coaches face off, it will have been a full year — to the day — since Edgar’s last fight.
”(The time off) that was the only downside of this whole thing,” Edgar said. ”But I stayed in the gym, I didn’t miss a beat, really. I don’t think it will affect me in anyway. Just got me itching to fight, that’s it.”
Edgar and Penn have fought twice already, with Edgar winning both times, though that was at lightweight (155 pounds). This time around will be at featherweight (145 pounds), the first time Penn has fought at that weight.
”I’m gonna prepare like I am fighting the best guy in the world, just like I always do,” Edgar said. ”B.J.’s no joke. He’s obviously done a lot in his career. And him at 45, I think he’ll make the weight fine, and it’ll be a great fight.”
Jose Aldo currently has a stranglehold on the featherweight division — he has defended the belt six times, including once against Edgar at UFC 156 — but whoever comes out on top of the coaches’ fight will have a claim to be one of the next in line for a title shot.
Penn has said that there would be no point to return and fight Edgar if he weren’t aiming for a title shot, and Edgar, for his part, makes no secret of where he sees himself in the division.
”I think I’m always going to be in the title talk,” he said. ”That’s why I do this. I’m one of the top guys at 145, so a win over B.J. will just put me that much closer.”
But before Edgar and Penn finish off their troika of fights, there is an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter to get through, the start of which begins Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.