Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The miracles ran out for Frankie Edgar. What's likely to continue though, are the questions. Questions about where he truly belongs. Long considered an undersized lightweight despite his title reign, Edgar didn't have to wait long after his UFC 144 loss to be asked about where his future lies. Is it at 155, where he'll continue to be outsized, or at 145, where he'll be an instant contender and might get an immediate title match against Jose Aldo?
Edgar had no answer on Sunday afternoon in Saitama, Japan, moments after losing his belt to Ben Henderson.
"It's not something I'm thinking about now, to be honest with you," he said in his typically understated style.
He'll have to consider it soon though, especially with UFC president Dana White repeatedly implying that Edgar could be offered a fight with Aldo.
But for right now, how can you blame him? It's not as if he was blown out of the water by Henderson. It was a fight that was fairly competitive, aside a powerful Henderson upkick that may have broken Edgar's nose. That strike led to visible damage that made the bout look more lopsided than it actually was.
Edgar thought he won the fight, but he wasn't the only one. White said he scored the fight for Edgar. So did Dan Henderson. So did Kenny Florian. So did many others.
How confusing was it? FightMetric reported that Henderson out-struck Edgar 100-81, while Compsutrike disagreed, with Edgar landing 124 strikes to Henderson's 114.
And because of that -- because it was close enough that there was doubt around the MMA world -- Edgar feels that he deserves the same benefit of the doubt as each of his last two challengers: an instant rematch.
"I’m not trying to shoot anybody out of anything they deserve, but I had to do two rematches, so what’s right?" he asked rhetorically.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight, White seemed to indicate that would not be in the offing for Edgar, and that Pettis would get the first crack at Henderson.
If Edgar doesn't get his do-over, then what? Despite his size disadvantage, he's never been truly physically dominated, and in fact, threw Henderson around a few times during the bout. Both FightMetric (5) and Compustrike (7) agreed that Edgar had more takedowns in the fight than Henderson, so there was no real strength disparity.
But would Edgar want to work his way back up to No. 1 contender when he might be able to move to 145 and challenge immediately? That division seems to be wide open. Aldo stands alone at the top, virtually unchallenged. But who's out there waiting for him? He's beaten Chad Mendes and Kenny Florian. Other top featherweights like Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung are locked into fights later this spring. And top-five ranked Hatsu Hioki, who won impressively at UFC 144, says he's not quite yet ready to fight for the belt (and on top of that, White didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement, declining to even officially proclaim him to be "in the mix").
Speaking of White, he also didn't sound too enthused about the possibility of Edgar continuing on as lightweight, reminding the media that he's been "asking the kid to go to 145 for a long time." Despite that, White insists it's ultimately Edgar's decision.
"If you look at what he’s accomplished, for me to come in and… the kid's a world champion," he said. "He beat BJ Penn two times and everybody else in that division. His only loss is to Gray Maynard, which he avenged big time. It’s going to be up to him, but I'd love to see him do it. I think a fight between him and Jose Aldo would be fun."
That last part of his answer might be the most important, White perhaps tipping his hand at an offer to come. If White offers Edgar a chance at Aldo -- and I think he will -- what then? His goal is to be champion again, but is that belt good enough? For Edgar, this is his reality. These are the circumstances surrounding his decision.
In the past, when Edgar was the champ, he referred to the possibility of moving down a division as "an ace in my pocket." But then it was just a hypothetical. Then it was just an exercise in debate.
There was no miracle for Edgar at UFC 144, but perhaps it is to come, a disappearing act to a new division, and a new shiny gold belt around his waist.
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