With one fight left on his contract, and free agency looming, a move to Bellator for UFC-great Frankie Edgar could be exactly what his career needs.
A fan-favorite who’s fought in the promotion since 2007, Frankie Edgar’s relationship with the UFC seems to have worked out nicely for both parties. Fighting 21 times for the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts, Edgar’s time in the UFC has included eight title bouts (in two divisions) and a run as lightweight champion.
Right now, “The Answer” is in a weird spot.
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Edgar has one fight remaining on his current contract with the UFC. According to his interview with Ariel Helwani of The MMA Hour earlier this week, Edgar is confident an agreement between his team and the UFC will be reached. He cited May as a potential return date and UFC 211 as somewhere he wouldn’t mind fighting, and named Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas as logical potential opponents.
Before that fight, Edgar would like to secure a new deal with the UFC. According to Edgar, they aren’t very far apart, and he doesn’t really want to go anywhere else. If he’s staying in the promotion, what could be next for the former lightweight champ?
He’s challenged for the featherweight title twice since moving down a weight class in 2012, losing both times to current champion Jose Aldo. Most recently at UFC 200 last summer. Edgar has since defeated Jeremy Stephens at UFC 205, putting him behind Aldo and 145-pound interim champion Holloway in the rankings.
A third bout with Aldo makes little sense. We’ve seen 10 rounds between Edgar and Aldo, with the Brazilian handily winning both bouts.
So, Edgar will likely be rooting Holloway at UFC 212 in Brazil, when the featherweight titles will finally be unified. The two have never fought, and if Edgar wants another title shot In 2017, his best bet is with Holloway as champion.
The other fighter Edgar mentioned, Ricardo Lamas, is an undeniably interesting matchup. Lamas has battled much of the top-10 at 145-pounds, and finds himself a win or two away from challenging for the belt. A win over “The Answer” would certainly boost Lamas’ resume, which lacks a marquee win ahead of a title fight.
For Edgar, a win over Lamas means substantially less. Each non-title fight is worth more risk than reward at this point in Edgar’s UFC tenure, Lamas or otherwise.
As long as Aldo is atop the division, another shot at the belt is a ways off for the New Jersey native. That doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting fights for Frankie Edgar in the UFC. But the type of meaningful fights he’s after, may not be available.
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When asked about his prospects at bantamweight, Edgar has signaled his interest, but only in a title fight. He’s not interested in battling his way through the currently loaded 135-pound weight class and is focused on earning another shot at the featherweight title. We can’t imagine he’s much more interested in “gatekeeper” status for the likes of Yair Rodriguez, The Korean Zombie, and more.
Fighters in similar situations coming to the end of their UFC contracts, like Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson, and Ryan Bader have made the switch to Bellator. Were Edgar to make the move, there are plenty of new, interesting, and meaningful fights to make.
At lightweight, Derek Anderson, Josh Thomson, and a potential third bout with former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson are there. As well as the obvious matchup with Bellator’s 155-pound champ Michael Chandler.
There’s also the Freire’s; Patricky and Patricio, who’ve battled for the Bellator lightweight and featherweight belts respectively. Bellator’s 145-pound champion Daniel Straus, former champion Pat Curran, and Daniel Weichel also give “The Answer” a variety of fresh options at featherweight.
A reign as champion or top-tier contender for the next few years at either 155 or 145 (or both) in Bellator is an option Frankie Edgar and the promotion should seriously consider.
Under new management, the UFC’s willingness to hold on to fighters without a clear picture as to their role in the company has seen a decline. From contenders to basically retired, fighters of all kinds have been dropped by WME-IMG. This trend likely isn’t going anywhere. Whether or not that will extend to Edgar, whose relationship with the promotion goes beyond his competing in the Octagon, remains to be seen.
That’s not to say Edgar doesn’t have anything to offer the UFC. He’s one of the best in the history of the UFC, and we’ll be watching him fight, regardless of which promotional banner it’s under. He could challenge for the featherweight belt again, and becoming a two-division champion is arguably attainable for the former 155-pound belt-holder.
But, right now is the right time for Edgar to take a hard look at jumping ship, and competing with fresh faces in meaningful fights over at Bellator. Should Bellator be interested in signing Edgar, and we’d imagine they would be, the move makes more sense than it seems. He has nothing left to prove in the UFC, and owes them nothing in return. In the long-term, a move to Bellator could the right move for Frankie Edgar, and all parties involved.