MMA has plenty of white whale fights. Silva-GSP, Couture-Emelianenko, Jones-Velasquez; search through the sport's annuals and there's no shortage of hypothetical mega-dances that never quite sprang to life. Go ahead and throw Urijah Faber versus Frankie Edgar into that conversation as well. Two future Hall of Fame legends of the lighter weight classes whose combined résumés read like an encyclopedia of prominent stars -- of all the realistic options, theirs may have been among the most compelling. And now it's a reality.
In a superb, if not left-field, slice of matchmaking, Faber and Edgar are slated to meet on May 16 at UFC Fight Night 65. The bout is one that eluded the two fighters back in 2013, when Faber was briefly in talks to coach against Edgar on The Ultimate Fighter 19 before tangling in a season finale superfight. Back then the UFC attempted to convince Edgar to take the fight at bantamweight. Talks never progressed and B.J. Penn ended up filling the vacant spot, but now that the meeting of the two greats is set for 145 pounds, Faber is quick to admit that bantamweight was never his first choice.
"Oh heck no," Faber said in a joint interview with Edgar on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It's so hard for me to make 135, man. And this is a fight, I've said it before, I think Frankie is one of the best fighters of all-time. He's beaten guys who have been in the pound-for-pound rankings for years multiple times, guys like BJ Penn. I don't want to go an have to fight him in a place where there's questions about whether or not he's having his best performance because he's making weight."
Most of Faber's greatest successes came at 145 pounds, back when he was the reigning champion of the WEC and effectively the face of that promotion. By contrast, most of Edgar's biggest accomplishments came at 155 pounds, where he overcame a tremendous size disadvantage to reign as the UFC lightweight champion from 2010 to 2012.
Edgar has since put together a remarkably successful run at featherweight, bruising his way into contendership despite possessing a similarly slight five-foot-six frame as "The California Kid." In truth, both fighters admitted to walking around anywhere from 155 to 160 pounds in their daily life, so it's no surprise that Edgar agreed with Faber's assessment that 145 pounds was the ideal option.
"Can I make ‘35? You know, I think I might be able to make it, I don't know how my performance would be," Edgar said. "Me and Urijah probably weigh the same, so what's the point of us cutting 10 extra pounds to fight each other and then put it back on anyway?
"Like Urijah was saying, I think it was always up in the air, but I think it was the weight class that was the issue. Now that, I think, Urijah agreed to fight at 145 or he was willing to come up, it kinda all worked out. The timing is right. I think we're both in similar spots. We're both in the top of our divisions. I've been wanting to do the fight for the longest time. We're pretty well-known guys at the lighter weights. I don't know if there's any more well-known guys than us, other than probably B.J., (Jose) Aldo, and (Conor) McGregor now. So it kinda makes sense."
Of all the worthy angles to the fight -- and there are many -- among the most entertaining is the classic regional clash of east coast versus west coast. Edgar was born in the New Jersey area, often trains in New York, and generally walks out to legendary east coast rapper Biggie Smalls. Faber, on the other hand, is a California guy through and through, based out of Sacramento and made synonymous with Tupac Shakur's "California Love."
For this reason, it was curious to learn that the fight wasn't booked on either coast at all, or even the United States. Instead Faber and Edgar will fly to Manila, Philippines to headline the UFC's inaugural event in the Asian territory, and once again, it wouldn't have been their first choice.
"I'm not going to BS, I would've much rather had it in the States, especially with the fact that it is east versus west," Edgar said. "I consider myself and Urijah some good ol' American boys, you know, so it would've been nice to do it on our soil. But I get where the UFC is coming from, too. It's a good market in the Philippines. They're very big fight fans and we're little guys, I think they can relate to us, so it kinda makes sense to put this fight over there for them as well."
Because of this announcement, a now-infamous photo of Edgar and Faber taken by Twitter user @joedaddy85 at a 2013 promotional event is suddenly made more timely than ever. In it, Edgar and Faber square off nose-to-nose, with Edgar appearing to be the slightly bigger man.
Still, the size difference between the two is slight, at best, and considering Faber's ongoing success at 135 pounds, Edgar admitted that depending on the outcome of this fight, a three-division run at gold would be an attractive goal moving forward.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind," Edgar said. "You just talked about Urijah, how he's saying it's tough to make '35. I'm sure it would be tough for me, as well. But first and foremost, I've got to win this fight with Urijah and hopefully get my title shot at '45. But you know, at '35, just the whole mystique of being able to hold three belts is definitely intriguing."
Faber, meanwhile, said that despite the grueling weight cuts, he still intends for bantamweight to be his home -- though he's willing to bend on that if the right opportunity comes along.
"I'll go back down to 135, but I want to have a couple superfights," Faber said. "In my opinion, I've had an entire career where I haven't had an opportunity to have big-name fights, unfortunately. If you look at guys in the heavyweight division, at 205 and 185, there's guys who have been around in Pride and Dream and all these organizations being televised for years and years and years, and the smaller guys haven't had as long of a history. So having a big name like Frankie, and me being in the position to have the ability to go up and challenge myself and have a fight like this is exciting for me, man. That's why I fight."