MMAmania.com interview exclusive with Frankie Edgar.
It's been interesting to watch the UFC lightweight division evolve from afterthought to afterburner in a little over a year. What began as a punchline for fighters under 170 pounds is now the go-to division for "Fight of the Night."
You have seasoned headliners like B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) grads like Kenny Florian and Joe Lauzon with something to prove, and battle-tested warriors like Clay Guida and Roger Huerta rounding out the mix.
So where does an up-and-coming fighter like Frankie Edgar fit into the mix?
"I belong here" deadpanned the easygoing yet confident "Answer." And after his dominating win over UFC veteran Spencer Fisher at UFC 78: Validation, it's hard to argue against the still perfect Edgar (8-0) in his assertion.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Frankie, first and foremost thank you for taking the time to talk with us at MMAmania.com. How are you feeling physically?
Frank Edgar: I feel good, I feel 100%. I'm between fights right now but I'm still training.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): We can assume your training regimen is different now than it is for an upcoming fight?
Frank Edgar: Definitely. The intensity is much different. I like to start training for an opponent 10 weeks out. Right now I just continue to work out.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): With that in mind, do you think that puts you at a disadvantage should the UFC need a last minute replacement for a big fight? Would you be able to step up and face BJ Penn if Joe Stevenson got hurt on just 4-6 weeks notice like Georges St. Pierre did against Matt Hughes?
Frank Edgar: I could pull it off, no problem. I'm always right in striking distance, I never let myself get too far off.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Since you're not training at full intensity we should take that to mean you don't have your next opponent lined up yet?
Frank Edgar: No, I haven't heard from Joe Silva. He calls me when he has something and we take it from there. As of right now we haven't spoken. We're kind of playing it by ear. He hasn't let me down yet.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How did that rumor get started about you fighting Takanori Gomi?
Frank Edgar: (Laughs) I have no idea. I'm not fighting him. He's not even signed to the UFC.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Let's go back to your recent win against Spencer Fisher at UFC 78: Validation in your home state of New Jersey. How did it feel to be the hometown boy?
Frank Edgar: It felt great. He's the biggest name I've fought. It was cool to be able to do it in front of all my friends and family. It was kind of like a homecoming. I had everybody there.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Did their presence pump you up or did you have some extra jitters?
Frank Edgar: It didn't affect me one way or the other. I kind of approach every fight the same way but I definitely fed off the energy.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): The lightweight division is really starting to stand out with so many exciting fighters at 155lbs. Where do you think you fit in amongst the division's elite? Would you rank yourself in the top ten? Top five?
Frank Edgar: I don't know about rankings or numbers, I just know that I can compete with any of them.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Is there anyone in your division that you've had your eye on, someone you really want to fight?
Frank Edgar: Um not really, I guess I want to fight people who are on the road to the belt. I may not be ready for a title shot just yet but I definitely want to be heading in that direction.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How do you think you would match up against a guy like Roger Huerta?
Frank Edgar: It would be a good fight. We match up pretty well. It would probably be a very fast-paced fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Besides yourself, who is a fighter to watch in the lightweight division?
Frank Edgar: Tyson Griffin. He's a tough dude. He keeps winning these tough fights and he's exciting to watch.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What's your prediction on Stevenson vs Penn at UFC 80?
Frank Edgar: Penn. I mean Stevenson's good, but Penn is just a little bit better – probably the best in our division.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): No discussion of the lightweight division would be complete without touching on the Sean Sherk scandal. Do you have an opinion on how everything went down?
Frank Edgar: Um, not really. He said he didn't do it, so it's cool. I believe him.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you have any reservations about going on record as steroid-free?
Frank Edgar: Not at all. I've always been a wrestler and as a wrestler you're always worried about cutting weight. The last thing I want to do is make that process any harder by packing on mass.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Were you ever approached to do the The Ultimate Fighter?
Frank Edgar: I actually tried out for it but I wasn't selected. I was disappointed but then a couple of weeks later my manager got a call from the UFC asking if I wanted to fight Tyson Griffin. I said yes and haven't looked back.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Do you think that TUF has run its course or does it have its place in the big picture.
Frank Edgar: I think it will be around because it's a great feeder for the UFC. You'll never be able to get an entire cast of great fighters but you got a couple of really good guys coming out of every show.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How did you end up getting into mixed martial arts?
Frank Edgar: Mostly from my wrestling. I wrestled in college and I just knew this was something I wanted to do.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What are some of your accomplishments in amateur wrestling?
Frank Edgar: I was a two-time state place winner, four-time national qualifier in college, one match away from All-American.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): When kids are young, they tend to say "When I grow up, I want to be a fireman, or policeman, or doctor". What did you say when you were young?
Frank Edgar: I didn't know. It was hard too not knowing. I always felt like there was something missing. Fighting now fills that void.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): While you were starting to get into fighting, who were some of the fighters you admired or wanted to model yourself after?
Frank Edgar: Well it's kind of new to me, but I have a wrestler's mentality so I guess guys like Hughes and Couture come to mind.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): We know you can wrestle, but what about your other skills like submissions and stand-up?
Frank Edgar: I didn't get to showcase my striking against Fisher, but I had good stand-up against Bocek. It's something I'll continue to work on and improve with each fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What weight do you walk around at?
Frank Edgar: About 165lbs.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): You're still pretty young and not too far removed from college. How tough has it been to sell your parents on a career as mixed martial artist?
Frank Edgar: My parents are my biggest supporters, as well as my fiancÃƒÂ©. They were a little tentative in the beginning but once they saw that I was giving it 100% they were behind me all the way.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How hard is it for your fiancÃƒÂ© to watch you fight?
Frank Edgar: She watches them, she probably screams the entire fight. It's tough because I know it's a lot of stress on her too.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): What would you be doing if you weren't fighting?
Frank Edgar: Plumbing. That's what I was doing before. In fact I was still doing it up until the Spencer Fisher fight.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): That's very Jersey of you. Since then have you been able to support yourself on fighting alone?
Frank Edgar: Yeah, now I'm a full-time fighter. I'm pretty lucky.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): I'll bet it was hard trying to work full-time, fight on the side, and still have a life.
Frank Edgar: Yeah it was tough. I was tired all the time man. Now it's nice I can train two times a day, get the proper rest, everything.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How many fights do you have left on your current contract?
Frank Edgar: I want to say three. Two or three.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Does having an early start in the UFC change your career timeline? Do you want to fight for X number of years and then move on while you're still pretty young or is this it for the foreseeable future?
Frank Edgar: I want to fight, so I guess I'll do it as long as my body allows me to. I wouldn't mind being like Couture fighting into my forties!
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): A lot of fighters are able to parlay their success into other business ventures. Do you see yourself building upon your success to branch out into other endeavors like a training school or clothing line?
Frank Edgar: Definitely, I would love that. I'm assistant wrestling coach at Rutgers University and I love teaching. You know what, I'll get into all that. The clothing-shit I'll even do movies! I'm down with all that.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Living in Jersey and having fought in Jersey are you starting to get recognized now? Do you get approached when you go out with your friends?
Frank Edgar: Yeah, a little bit here and there.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Is that something you enjoy or has it been difficult adjusting?
Frank Edgar: No, it's cool. I've lived here my whole life in Toms River so most of the time I end up knowing them anyway – one way or the other. This is Jersey, it's always like hey I know this guy, who knows this guy...
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How is your relationship with other guys in the UFC? Is there a bit of camaraderie in the locker room or is it strictly business for you?
Frank Edgar: Everyone's pretty friendly and usually in a pretty good mood before the fights. It's a nice experience.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): (UFC President) Dana White has implied that Randy Couture's recent fallout has a lot to do with the fighters talking and gossiping about paydays, matchmaking, etc. in their own little circles. Have you found fighters to be privy to that kind of information or openly talking about their situations?
Frank Edgar: Well if they do I'm definitely not in the loop!
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): How is your relationship with Dana, and how involved is he on the fighter level?
Frank Edgar: I don't talk to him unless I see him at the events. He's cool but I don't have much contact with him at this point.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): So who gave you your nickname "The Answer"?
Frank Edgar: My teammate Chris Ligori.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Is there a background behind it or did he just blurt it out?
Frank Edgar: Uh, no he just kind of came out with it. I liked it, sounded good with Edgar.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): And your tattoos, do they have any special significance?
Frank Edgar: Um, I don't know, I have a samurai on my arm, as far as significance, I guess it's basically the same clichÃƒÂ© stuff everyone else likes to talk about.
Jesse Holland (MMAmania.com): Thanks again Frankie for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything we can pass along for your fans?