Six years later, Frankie Edgar's UFC career comes full circle

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

BURBANK, Calif. -- Feb. 3, 2007 was a memorable night in UFC history.

There was a buzz in the air from the moment the doors opened at the Mandalay Bay Events Center for the annual Las Vegas Super Bowl weekend event. The card was loaded with fighters expected to be UFC game-changers in coming years. Anderson Silva was making his first Octagon appearance since winning the middleweight title. A pair of future UFC light heavyweights champs, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto Machida, were set for their UFC debuts, as was heavyweight superstar Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

An item of note on the undercard was a bout featuring a man many at the time considered a future lightweight champion. Undefeated Tyson Griffin, a can't-miss prospect in his second UFC bout, was slated to meet some unknown kid from New Jersey named Frankie Edgar.

Those who showed up early at Mandalay Bay indeed saw a future 155-pound champ, but it wasn't the one they expected. Edgar derailed Griffin with a dominant unanimous decision victory, Edgar's first big moment in an underdog career spent defying expectations, which carried him to one championship and has him on the brink of another.

Six years to the weekend later, things have come full circle for Edgar. Fighting at Mandalay Bay for the first time since the Griffin fight, the fighter known as "The Answer" will take center stage on a Super Bowl card and challenge featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr. in the main event of UFC 156.

The location is not lost on the former lightweight champion.

"[Six] years ago I made my debut in the UFC on the Super Bowl card, that definitely means a little something to me," Edgar said. "I don't really think of it every day, you know, but it's definitely something pretty cool."

It didn't take long after the Griffin fight for Edgar, who naturally weighs around 158, to hear that he should fight in a different weight class. At the time, Urijah Faber's star was breaking out as WEC featherweight champion, and pressure was put on Edgar to make the switch.

"I don't think people realize when I first came in, when I first started fighting, ‘55 was the lowest weight class in the UFC," Edgar said. "I came around and I fought ‘55 because that was the lightest weight class to fight at. Then 145 came in the WEC. They did try to talk me into going to ‘45 but I wanted to fight in the UFC. I didn't want to fight in the WEC."

You know Edgar's story from there. With the heart of a lion and a propensity for getting into thrilling fights, the undersized Jersey boy won the lightweight crown from B.J. Penn and defended it for two years before losing it to Benson Henderson and then losing a controversial decision in last summer's rematch.

His hand forced by circumstance, Edgar had already decided to make the move to featherweight when he got the call from the UFC to fight Aldo (originally scheduled for October, but postponed after Aldo was injured in a motorcycle accident).

Edgar was tiny for a lightweight and his coaches feel he could make bantamweight if he put his mind to it. So the drop to 145 pounds hasn't been a major adjustment for the former champion.

"I'm really not much different," Edgar said. "I've dieted these past couple weeks, so I'm a little lighter than I would be if I showed up for a fight at '55. But I still feel like my power is the same as it was when I fought at ‘55. I think I'll be able to utilize my wrestling a little better, and I'll be able to use my size a little more. I won't be the biggest 145 pounder, but I'm not going to be as much outsized as I was at 155."

The seamless adjustment means we're not likely to see a different Frankie Edgar from the one who has showed up in the cage over the past six years. Edgar has been the subject of open speculation about how long he can hold out with his style, particularly after his bruising fights with Gray Maynard.

But Edgar says, even knowing Aldo's reputation as a ferocious striker, that he's going to fight the only way he knows how come Saturday.

"It hasn't hurt me yet, so I'm not going to go away from that," Edgar said. "I don't necessarily go in there and try to brawl, but sometimes you get hit with a big shot and it will end up looking like a brawl. I'm willing to go in there and mix it up in every area you have to. If you want to win, sometimes you have to give a little bit to get a little."

With a victory Saturday, Edgar would become the third fighter in UFC history to become a two-weight-class champion, joining Randy Couture (heavyweight and light heavyweight) and B.J. Penn (lightweight and welterweight). Edgar says he's doing his best to stay focused on the task at hand, but allows that being mentioned in the same breath as that legendary duo would be a noteworthy achievement.

"I'm just trying to worry about winning my next fight and if I win my next fight that's going to take care of everything else," Edgar said. "The championship, the legacy, the two belts in two different weight classes, all that. But just to be considered among those two names, it would be an honor for sure."

As the former -- and perhaps future -- champion gets set for what could be a historic fight week in Las Vegas, he pauses to take a look back at the path he's traveled. Which brings us back to the Griffin fight.

"I'm blessed that I'm able to do what I do, and do what I love, and do it for a living," Edgar said. "I think a lot of people in the UFC didn't have their debut fight go as well as they planned and they're not in the UFC anymore. I'm thankful I'm a mainstay. When I first got in there, I just hope I was a person who could stick around and make the most of it. Here we are [six] years later, I'm fighting for another title."

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