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Frankie Edgar aiming to ‘outdo’ himself from first Cub Swanson win, believes he’s still close to title shot

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Frankie Edgar may have been dealt a stunning blow to his title hopes at UFC 222 when he suffered the first knockout loss of his career, but that doesn’t mean Edgar is giving up on his dreams of being a two-division champion.

The former lightweight titleholder said Monday on The MMA Hour that despite his setback at the hands of Brian Ortega, “The Answer” believes he is still within reach of the title shot that was supposed to be his at UFC 222.

“I think I’m still close,” Edgar told host Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Maybe not just one (win), but two and I feel like I’m right there. I always say, as long as I keep training hard and keep putting myself in the right position, I think I’ll always be knocking on that door.

“So my mentality hasn’t changed. I still want to be a champion. I know the path might be a little different, but I’m still positive. I’m not beat up. I did get rocked during the fight. I got put down and I got rocked, I got stopped. I gotta deal with it, I’ve gotta come to terms with it, but I’m ready to put that work in and achieve these goals again.”

Edgar, 36, restarts his climb up the featherweight ranks on April 21 when he meets Cub Swanson in a short-notice rematch at UFC Atlantic City.

While the fight makes sense from a divisional standpoint — Edgar and Swanson are the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked UFC fighters at 145 pounds, respectively — the first meeting between the two veterans in 2014 didn’t exactly scream for a rematch. Edgar dominated Swanson en route to a bloody submission win in the bout’s closing seconds at UFC Austin.

But Edgar said the timing of UFC Atlantic City, more so than the opponent, was what intrigued him to accept the quick turnaround.

“I don’t care. Cub’s game, I’m game, let’s do it,” Edgar said. “It doesn’t matter at this point. It doesn’t really matter who fights who so much. I think this is all timing. If you’re winning fights at the right time, then good things happen.”

Although there were increased calls online for Edgar to make a long-discussed move to 135 pounds in the aftermath of UFC 222, Edgar said the idea wasn’t even entertained.

“Definitely not, I’m not going to go to 135 like that,” he said. “I’m doing a couple more ones at ‘45, trying to get this belt at ‘45 still, and then we’ll worry about 135. I’m not saying we’re closing the door on it, but Thursday night of weigh-ins when you’re making ’45, ’35 is definitely not on my mind.”

Edgar added that he is looking to improve upon his first performance against Swanson, despite how dominant of a showing it was.

“It took a little bit to get where I wanted to go, but once I got where I wanted, I kind of was able to do what I wanted, if that makes sense,” Edgar said.

“I’m always trying to outdo myself, from my last performance or from my most previous performance. I’m definitely going to try to outdo myself from the last time I fought Cub.”

While Edgar busies himself with Swanson, the opponent he was supposed to fight at UFC 222 — featherweight champion Max Holloway — will instead take on Ortega later this year.

Edgar said he’d be interested in fighting either man, especially considering the history he has with each, but he doesn’t have a preference as far as the winner of their matchup.

For now, Edgar is focused only on rebounding from his setback against Ortega. The loss is one Edgar admitted he took “hard,” however he hopes the quick turnaround for UFC Atlantic City gives him “something positive” to set his sights on.

Edgar also acknowledged that the massive outpouring of love and support he received online after UFC 222 helped to lift his spirits in a difficult time.

“It was nice, especially from your peers,” Edgar said. “Those are the people who are kinda living in the same shoes as we do, and to get that respect from them, it definitely that shows that [I’ve carried myself] in the right way. If I was a jerk and didn’t carry myself the right way and didn’t fight with heart, I don’t think I would get that love, so it’s nice to know I’ve been doing things the right way.”

One of those messages of support came from Holloway himself, who tweeted to Edgar on the night of UFC 222 that “true fans and Jersey knows no belt can outshine what you bring to the sport” — words of encouragement for which Edgar said he was grateful.

“I saw it and I appreciated it,” Edgar said.

“Real recognizes real, I guess, and I think he sees that I’m a fighter and that I’m willing to put it on the line, and I appreciate the respect he has for me.”

Edgar also received a message from another well-known rival, albeit one with a slightly different tone.

In the hours after UFC 222, lightweight champion Conor McGregor tweeted that Edgar’s career “deserved” for his first knockout loss to come against the Irishman, but sent “love and respect always” nonetheless.

Understandably, Edgar was a little less happy to receive that one, but he still appreciated the thought.

“I mean, it’s definitely McGregor’s fashion, a little offhanded compliment, if you know what I mean,” Edgar said. “But yeah, again, it’s respect, in a way, so I do appreciate that.”