Frankie Edgar suffered the first knockout of his 13-year career at UFC 222, losing via brutal first-round stoppage at the hands of Brian Ortega. However the setback won’t stop Edgar’s plans for a busy 2018 campaign — “The Answer” is already booked for an immediate turnaround on April 21 at UFC Atlantic City in a rematch against Cub Swanson, a fight that comes just seven weeks after his loss to Ortega.
Edgar’s decision to return so quickly has drawn plenty of concern from fans and pundits online, but the former UFC lightweight champion sees the opportunity only as a positive.
“I’m excited to get in there,” Edgar said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I know I’m getting flack from people and you guys, obviously on whether I’m taking this fight too soon or not, and that’s fine. I [expected] it and I know what I’m putting on the line here, and I feel comfortable doing it, so I’m ready to go prove people wrong here.
“I’m the one in there. I’m the one putting it on the line, and there’s nothing like getting in there and getting a win to erase that last loss. And again, it’ll never erase it, but at least it’ll kinda help deal with that stink, and like you said, give me something positive to kinda focus on instead of focusing on the negative.”
Edgar, 36, said the decision to book another fight so quickly was one he made with the support of his family and team after the UFC called with an offer to fight in the co-main event of UFC Atlantic City, which goes down in Edgar’s backyard of New Jersey.
While his knockout loss to Ortega was a nasty sight — Edgar was rocked by a standing elbow then lifted off his feet with a fight-ending uppercut — he said that he did not suffer a concussion and never truly lost consciousness during the sequence.
“I was pretty with it,” Edgar said. “I recall the knockout because I didn’t get turned off or anything. Even when I was going down, I knew I had a short time. In my head I was saying, ‘Alright, short time, short time. Let’s try to get through this.’ But obviously he was able to capitalize on it with that uppercut. And even when I fell, as soon as the ref came over me, I said I was good, and maybe I wasn’t — I’m not really complaining about the stoppage, I can see why he stopped it — but I was with it. As soon as he stopped it, I said, ‘I’m good! I’m good!’ I was trying to argue. Obviously I needed a little help [to stand up], but I wasn’t all the way out. I didn’t even have a headache afterwards that night at the hotel or anything.”
The precision and timing of Ortega’s finishing strikes at UFC 222, more so than their power, is what Edgar believes ultimately caused the worst of the damage.
“I just didn’t see it coming. I think that’s what it is more than anything,” Edgar said. “Everyone says, ‘Oh, it was the hardest shot you got hit with.’ It’s not always about the hardest one. The one you don’t see coming, I think, rocks you. You’re not expecting it and I just didn’t see that elbow when it got through.
“It happens. You see it happen every fight night, pretty often, so it is what it is. It’s definitely, it sucks. It sucks going home to your kids and they’re asking what happened and you’ve got to tell them what happened, and yeah, it’s not something I’m proud of, but again, it happened. What am I going to do?”
Aside from the knockout, Edgar said he left UFC 222 relatively unscathed, with his body feeling better than it had after any fight “in a while.” After giving himself two weeks off to rest and finish his move into his new house, Edgar returned to the gym last week and immediately threw himself into fight camp, sparring three times during the week under the watchful eye of his longtime coach Mark Henry.
Everyone around him has been supportive of his decision, according to Edgar.
“I always listen to what my coaches say, and (my manager) Ali (Abdel-Aziz) and my wife and my teammate, my friends. I kinda hear everybody out, but ultimately it’s definitely my decision,” Edgar said. “As long as I have their support — if they said don’t take this fight, I still probably would’ve taken it, but it’s good to have their support and I felt I had that.
“It’s not like I got turned off in there. Like I said, I was pretty with it, even afterwards, I kinda knew what put me down. Even in the hotel room, man, I really didn’t have a headache or nothing. I think I’ve left training with worse headaches than I had on March 3.”
Edgar said he ultimately did not regret his decision to accept the fight against Ortega rather than waiting for the title shot he already earned against UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, despite how things played out at UFC 222. He believes he’s still only one or two fights away from earning that title shot back, and that road begins with Swanson.
“I mean, listen, no one is more disappointed than me,” Edgar said. “I may be not showing it as much as those guys, but believe me, I took it hard. I still take it hard, but I’m not going to be one to dwell on it either.
“You can’t go back and change things. I’m not one to sit there and say I wish I did something different. In fights you do it all the time — if you lose, you wish you did this, you wish you did that. But I’m going to stand by my decision and I’ve got to be a man about it.
That being said, Edgar completely understands why so many people are concerned about his decision to return for UFC Atlantic City, especially after fellow ex-champion Michael Bisping’s similar decision led to disastrous consequences after his title loss in November.
“I totally get it, yeah,” Edgar said. “You see it with other guys, but I just feel like I’m different, a little different. And again, I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way if I feel like it’s not the best thing for me, but like I said, I wasn’t turned off and I definitely didn’t — I was rocked, I was rocked, I’ll give him that, but I wasn’t that bad.”