At this point, Frankie Edgar knows he may not even be second in line to fight UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.
McGregor's grand plan -- to capture the lightweight title and make history at UFC 196 -- hit a snag last week when Rafael dos Anjos dropped out of the event with a broken foot. Without dos Anjos, and thus no lightweight belt up for grabs, McGregor elected to instead face Nate Diaz in a welterweight bout to keep the show rolling. But the Irishman still has cross-divisional aspirations, and another push for a second title could be in the cards next.
Edgar is hoping that ends up not being the case, although there is one UFC 196 outcome that Edgar is confident would put an end to this craziness and force McGregor to defend his featherweight strap.
"I don't know, man, I think Nate could go in there and spoil the party, and then [McGregor] has to come back down to 145," Edgar said Monday on The MMA Hour. "I think that's best case scenario.
"I give him a real shot. His pressure and volume is just tough to deal with for anybody. You know, Conor's biggest thing is range and length, and he doesn't have it in this fight. A southpaw against southpaw, I think a lot could happen there."
Edgar was actually one of the first names the UFC turned to once dos Anjos dropped out, but, much to his frustration, he was unable to accept after suffering a torn groin four weeks ago while rolling jiu-jitsu.
"The first week, I was having a hard time sitting on the toilet," Edgar explained. "But it got better and I like to stay doing something. I have to stay doing something because I'll go crazy. I'm just doing what I can. Obviously I can't roll, I can't wrestle, I can't spar. I can hit mitts a little bit and I've been lifting weights. I'm just doing what I can do to keep somewhat in shape.
"To be honest, I'm kind of surprised by how long this is keeping me out. Most of my injuries in the past have been overuse injuries, bulged disc, nerve pain. This is actually something that actually happened, where it popped. I thought I'd be well more ahead than where I am now, because again, I don't like to be stagnant too long. So I thought I'd be back training a little more than I am, but you know, that's the way that it goes."
Edgar said he expects to be recovered and back in the gym in time for the summer, when McGregor is tentatively slated to next compete at UFC 200.
But even though Edgar has moved past his recent issues with the UFC brass, he remains irritated by much of the backlash he has gotten online for not accepting the opportunity to fight McGregor on short notice while injured.
"[The fight] was up at 155. I just thought RDA, he's been looking great lately. Obviously we share the same manager, and from what I understood, everything was going great and I wasn't really banking on me even getting a call," Edgar said. "That's kind of what pissed me off too, I'm sitting here recovering from injury and people are looking down at me because I didn't take the fight on 10 days' notice at a weight class I'm not even in, for not even the title. That's kind of what got under my skin."
When asked if he would have jumped at the opportunity to fight McGregor if healthy, Edgar was unequivocal in saying he would have.
"I mean, I was even enticed by the idea of taking it now," Edgar admitted. "But luckily I didn't, man. I'm in no shape to be fighting, or training, to be honest. But if I was healthy and even half-assed trained, for sure, I would've taken that fight."
Edgar has long been considered one of the best featherweights in the world, but a second shot at the division's belt has thus far eluded him.
Since falling short to Jose Aldo in his 145-pound debut, Edgar has won of five straight fights and scored three post-fight bonuses. After his latest victory, a first-round knockout over Chad Mendes in December, Edgar was guaranteed a title shot by UFC president Dana White. That title shot now, though, seems farther away than ever before.
Yet while Edgar doubled down on his statement from last week that the ‘C' in ‘UFC' must stand for ‘Conor,' he also acknowledged that he understands why the UFC is bending its own rules to accommodate McGregor.
"I mean, he does (get preferential treatment)," Edgar said, "but how can you say it's not just? He brings in the numbers. He performs. I'm not one to sit here and complain that he's getting better treatment than I am. He's kind of earned it, I guess you could say. I feel I've earned it too in a different way, through the years of work, years of just doing the right thing for these guys."
Ultimately, Edgar is hoping all of those years of quietly being a company man will pay off with a little karmic vindication on Saturday.
If Diaz does the improbable and dethrones McGregor, the game McGregor is playing changes in a major way. And in Edgar's eyes, Diaz has the tools to get it done.
"I think he has to win this fight the same way he always does," Edgar said. "Just, pressure. You've got to put pressure on Conor, and he's got to take the kicks away as much as possible. Conor is definitely crafty. He has many different kicks, and [Diaz] has to put the pressure, get close enough to negate the kicks, and just be himself."