When Frankie Edgar won the UFC lightweight title by beating iconic legend B.J. Penn and then did it again four months later, it appeared as if the New Jersey native was really hitting the peak of his career.
He was 28 years old, a champion, and after back-to-back fights with Gray Maynard that may go down as two of the best bouts in UFC history, Edgar’s star was on the rise.
Five years after winning the lightweight belt, Edgar no longer holds the title and he’s not even competing at 155 pounds anymore. Penn is retired and Maynard looks like he’s one step away from a similar fate as well. And then there’s Edgar — rolling through contenders like a Mack truck playing chicken with a Yugo.
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He forced Penn to call it career last July before shredding former top contender Cub Swanson in his last fight. At 33, Edgar is not only still kicking around at the top of the division — he might be even better than he’s ever been before.
"I do think this is the best I’ve ever been," Edgar told FOX Sports. "I don’t put all this work in to maintain — I put all this work in to get better. If I’m not getting better, I’m doing something wrong."
The standard Edgar sets for himself is fairly simplistic. He just wants to get better before every fight and outdo his last performance in the Octagon.
I do think this is the best I’ve ever been. I don’t put all this work in to maintain — I put all this work in to get better. If I’m not getting better, I’m doing something wrong
— Frankie Edgar
For his upcoming fight against Urijah Faber this weekend in the Philippines the goal is to become the first person to ever beat the former WEC champion in a non-title fight. Edgar also aims to finish Faber because, as he learned with painful results in his last couple of bouts at lightweight, he can’t depend on the judges to get it right either.
So now he just takes it out of their hands.
"I think I’m just getting better. I think I still have room to grow at 33-years old getting ready to fight Urijah. I feel I’m better. I try to be a different fighter every time out and I seem to accomplish that. It’s getting tougher and tougher but my goal is always to outdo my last performance," Edgar said.
"My last two fights, I think you’ve seen I’m fighting with that urgency to finish guys. It’s something I maybe lacked a little bit in the beginning stages of my career, but I’m coming into my stride and it’s something I’m looking to do. Urijah is as tough as they come and it’s not going to be easy, but that’s what I’m training for."
Following his win over Swanson last November, Edgar was gunning for a title fight against champion Jose Aldo but instead the shot went to Irish contender Conor McGregor.
Instead of earning a fight against another top-five featherweight, Edgar landed the fight with Faber, who hasn’t competed at 145 pounds since he lost to Aldo in 2010. What he gets with Faber that he wouldn’t get with Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas or anybody else ranked at 145 pounds is the attention that goes along with facing arguably one of the most well-known UFC fighters in the world.
Faber has been around the sport for over a decade but more importantly he’s built a fan base that consistently supports him whether he’s fighting as a featherweight, bantamweight or anywhere any between.
There’s something to be gained by beating a bigger name rather than a higher-ranked competitor who just isn’t as well known. Like it or not, that’s the nature of combat sports most of the time.
"The No. 1 contender was Cub (Swanson) and I beat him. Chad (Mendes) was and he lost so the next No. 1 contender was Cub and I beat him. For me it just made sense. Urijah’s a legend and he’s done so much for the sport and so much in the sport that I think that holds more weight than fighting someone else," Edgar admitted.
With his fight against Faber just a few days away, Edgar doesn’t want to put too much attention on what comes next although he can’t ignore the obvious question about a title shot looming against the winner of Aldo and McGregor. He won’t address it directly, but Edgar expects to have a chat with UFC president Dana White after the fight is over.
"If things go my way as I intend them to go, I’m definitely going to be in Dana’s ear," Edgar said. "Maybe I’ll hitch a ride home in one of his jets."
Make sure to watch UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber at a special start time on Saturday morning — 8am ET for the prelims airing on FOX Sports 1 followed by the main card at 10am ET only on FOX Sports 1.