Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The return to the Brazilian market was one of the UFC's biggest successes of 2011. Since last August, the promotion has visited the nation three times, with the fourth on the way next month, when Jose Aldo looks to defend the featherweight championship.
In each event, Brazil has feverishly backed its own, notably chanting the phrase "Você vai morrer" at several foreigners, which translates to "You're going to die." While the rallying cry is meant figuratively, that is often lost in translation, leaving some non-Portuguese speakers feeling a bit uneasy.
Don't count Aldo's next foe Frankie Edgar among them. Having stared down a gauntlet of challenges throughout his UFC career, Edgar isn't intimidated by the prospect of going into Aldo's home territory and facing him on his own turf at UFC 153.
"I’m not fearful for my life or anything like that," he said on Wednesday's edition of The MMA Hour. "They're some passionate people and Jose Aldo is their guy. So we’ll see what I can do in the fight to have some people cheering my name by the end of it."
The fight will mark Edgar's move down to 145 pounds, ending years of speculation and questions about a possible shift to the weight division, even when he was the lightweight champion. It came unexpectedly though, at least in terms of the timing. While Edgar has lost his last two fights in a pair of close decisions, he had only been three weeks removed from the most recent when his future was put up to a decision.
Last Thursday, Edgar called UFC president Dana White to discuss his future. It was a five-minute conversation that didn't lead to any concrete answers, but within a few minutes, Edgar's phone rang, and it was White calling him.
Within those few minutes between calls, White had received confirmation that Erik Koch was out of the UFC 153 main event, and Aldo needed a new opponent. Immediately, he offered Edgar the chance to step in on six weeks' notice.
Edgar told White he'd call him back after discussing the opportunity with his team, but acknowledged that in his own mind, he had accepted the invitation and would have a hard time being talked out of it. Within an hour, he officially agreed.
"Opportunities like this don't come around too often," he said, "so you can't let them slip."
Despite the events of the preceding week -- with Jon Jones turning down a short-notice fight against Chael Sonnen, leading to the cancellation of a show -- Edgar said he felt no undue pressure from White or UFC management to step into the vacated slot.
"It just seemed right for me," he said.
Part of Edgar's reasoning stemmed from the fact that it was an instant title shot, of course, but part of it was because he always desired to get right back into the gym and shake off the UFC 150 disappointment. He said he came away from the split-decision loss to Ben Henderson with no injuries, and that he always hoped to fight one more time before the end of the year.
The only question was what weight he would do it at. Despite all the talk about his size, Edgar has not competed below 150 pounds since he was a senior in college and won 40 matches wrestling at 141 pounds. And while most assumed he would shift to featherweight, his boxing coach Mark Henry threw a wrinkle into the conversation recently when he said Edgar could conceivably move all the way down to 135.
Edgar said that wasn't a realistic goal. He's currently walking around at about 160, and believes that cutting a few pounds may actually make him quicker than he was at lightweight.
Whether or not that gives him a speed advantage over Aldo remains to be seen. Edgar said he's admired Aldo from afar over the years, enjoying the visuals of his dynamic striking, and expects nothing less when he steps in with Aldo for the first time at featherweight.
All summed up, Edgar will truly be a stranger in a strange land, fighting out of his usual weight class, in a foreign place, hoping to prove his championship mettle one more time, and maybe stealing a few Brazilian fans in the process.
"I'm expecting to see the best Jose Aldo," he said. "He’s in his hometown. Last time he fought there he was pretty dominant so I’m not expecting anything but the best from him."
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