If there is a group of MMA fans out there who continue to doubt Frankie Edgar, at least his boss is not one of them.
In the wake of Edgar’s come-from-behind knockout win over Gray Maynard at UFC 136 last Saturday, a seemingly awed UFC President Dana White compared his lightweight champion to a real-life “Rocky,” praised his extraordinary ability to absorb punishment and made at least one other very bold statement.
“I'm going to say it here tonight," White said, at the event’s post-fight press conference. "I don't care who disagrees, you're wrong and I'm right — he's the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, period.”
Shocking? Maybe not. The case for Edgar being at least considered for top pound-for-pound honors essentially makes itself.
Here is a guy who walks around at 160-pounds and barely cuts any weight to make the lightweight limit. At the very least, Edgar seems like a natural featherweight and when you see him physically juxtaposed with UFC 145-pound champion Jose Aldo – as he was throughout the weekend of UFC 136 – and you start thinking bantamweight might actually be a better fit. Yet Edgar keeps disposing of the top competition in what is unilaterally regarded as the most competitive division in all of mixed martial arts.
If you didn’t think he was worthy of pound-for-pound status, he certainly made his case in his title rematch with the previously-undefeated Maynard last Saturday night.
In the early-going, it was uncanny how much their latest fight resembled the previous one, with Maynard battering the champion with a barrage of strikes that dropped him to the canvas no fewer than three times in the first round. Somehow, Edgar kept coming and in the second and third appeared to turn the tide. No more could Maynard find a home for his power shots and Edgar’s mobility inside the cage and speed to the punch seemed to have him frozen and frustrated.
“I did hit him with a knee,” Maynard said later of a first stanza where for a second straight time he thought he was on the verge of wearing the gold. “I think I hit him with a right. I think I hit him with a hook. If I would have had a bat, I would have hit him with a bat. I couldn’t find one. Where do you keep the bats, Dana?”
In the fourth, Edgar started in on a similar campaign, bouncing around Maynard, countering him when he loaded up on his punches and tagging him with unexpected shots of his own, seemingly out of the blue. It was one of those that did the challenger in when, during a scramble Edgar popped him in the face with a short right hand. Maynard stumbled backward against the cage and Edgar charged, landing a series of additional rights until he dropped. With Maynard on the canvas, Edgar switched to the left hand and poured it on until the referee stopped the fight.
It was the third meeting between the two and after their most recent scrap at UFC 125 ended in a controversial draw, it was Maynard’s first career loss and Edgar’s second official win as champion. Since winning the title over BJ Penn in April of last year, it was also the first fight in which Edgar came in as the favorite.
So, the tide is turning ever so slightly, from a time when it felt like the MMA-viewing public was just sort of waiting for Edgar to lose. At this point, there is no telling how far he can go or how long he’ll be able to hang onto a title that already has a lengthy list of suitors.
At least he’s got the boss in his back pocket and, if he keeps winning the way he did last weekend, he’ll have the fans soon enough.