Although he took a brief detour, Frankie Edgar is still on the road to the UFC bantamweight division.
The former lightweight champion was scheduled to make his 135-pound debut in January against Cory Sandhagen. But another opportunity came his way when he headlined UFC Busan against Chan Sung Jung. His mindset was to beat “The Korean Zombie” at featherweight, then drop to bantamweight to face Sandhagen.
The risk didn’t earn a reward for Edgar, who was stopped via first-round TKO. But he was still able to learn a lesson.
“I took an opportunity,” Edgar told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I don’t regret taking the opportunity looking back. It was a loss and that always sucks, because I can’t go back and change those things. I stacked the cards against myself more so than usual.
“I think what I learned was this next time around, I want to put the ball in my court and make sure it’s a comfortable situation for myself. Not going into the enemy’s territory, short notice and all of that stuff.”
The planned matchup with Sandhagen was an intriguing one for UFC fans. A game, ex-world champ making his bantamweight debut against a surging 28-year-old contender was a story that wrote itself. But as it goes in MMA, things change in an instant.
Now, Edgar is focused on making his presence felt in the loaded 135-pound division.
“I don’t know who I’m going to get matched up with, but it will be someone along those lines (of Sandhagen),” he said. “I wanted to fight in June before [the coronavirus pandemic] went down, and now I see that May 9 is tentatively scheduled. So we’ll see what happens there. But I’d like to get back in there (for June) ideally.”
Edgar heads into his bantamweight debut coming off back to back losses and a 1-3 record at 145 pounds. Prior to the loss to Jung, the 38-year-old challenged Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight title, and despite a strong effort, he came up short in a bid to capture a second UFC title in a different weight class.
Entering the deep and talent rich pool of bantamweight talent, Edgar is very excited for the potential matchups ahead.
“It’s cool because it’s another extension of my career,” he said. “I spent half of my career at lightweight and the other half at 145, so I get a new set of toys to play with and a lot of new, interesting matchups.”
While the 26-fight UFC veteran is ready to jump into the title mix in his new division, he’s trying to stay sharp in the midst of a global pandemic, like most fighters. So far, he’s been able to get in workouts at an empty gym or with one training partner in his basement.
Edgar hopes to get back in the octagon in the next couple of months. But should the UFC approach with an earlier timetable, the offer would have to be very enticing.
“Based on that last fight, I don’t really want to jump in anything on short notice,” he said. “I want to have a proper training camp to prepare. I’m always a game guy, and if the situation is tempting for myself, then of course I’ll think about it.
“I’m definitely not disregarding (what’s going on in the world). Health and safety concerns will be heavily involved in my decision with the pandemic. But I’m an athlete, and this is what I’ve been doing my whole life, so that’s what I want to get back to regardless of what’s been going on.”
In terms of weight management, Edgar believes he’s already in a good place. Having 32 professional fights and a strong wrestling pedigree makes discipline more natural to the MMA vet than most people.
“It’s definitely not the ideal time to be worrying about weight with not having access to all the amenities and what not,” he said. “When I decided this past summer that I was gonna go down to 135, I pretty much tricked my mind to not get over 160, and I’m pretty much there. I probably walk around around 157 without really trying hard so.
“I got my weight in the right place, so that when I have a date in mind, I’ll hook up with a nutritionist and get really zeroed in.”