NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 13: Frankie Edgar UFC lightweight champion poses during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Change is good.
For Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, that change will come when he travels to Saitama, Japan, to take on newly-crowned number one contender Ben Henderson at UFC 144 on Feb. 26, 2012.
After finally putting his feud with Gray Maynard to rest (for the time being, anyway) at UFC 136 on Oct. 8, 2011 in Houston, Texas, Edgar is more than ready to "answer" questions about a new opponent.
Edgar is developing a reputation for being a gutsy, "comeback fighter." However, the ability to take a licking and keep on ticking is not exactly what the champion wants to be known for. It's just kind of worked out that way:
"Yeah, I'm not trying to make a habit of it. Taking the punishment I've been taking the last couple of fights. It's like a cat's got nine lives. I don't know how many lives I've got to get out of that first round again. It does make for exciting TV and it's definitely building my legend, so as long as I come out the victor, I'll get beat up for four or five rounds. As long as I come out the winner. I'll do it every time."
Henderson, Edgar's next opponent, has won all three of his UFC fights and done so in decisive fashion since making the jump to the Octagon from World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Edgar knows "Smooth" is a worthy adversary and is not underestimating him one bit.
From the UFC 144 press conference that took place earlier today:
"I’d like for it to be a quick fight, but that doesn't seem to be how it goes for me. Usually my fights are exciting. In my past few fights, I’ve taken some damage, but was able to come back, so it makes it exciting for the fans. I know it’ll be a good fight. He’s a good fighter. I’ll go there and do everything I gotta do to win. He's been on a tear since he's come over from the WEC. He's beat all the top contenders, so he's more deserving of a title shot. He's real exciting. He's young and hungry. So, I know I got my hands full."
Henderson won't be the only challenge that Edgar will have to face in this upcoming 155-pound bout. Though Edgar has competed on foreign soil before (he most recently took on B.J. Penn in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112 on April 10, 2010), this will be his first fight in the "Land of the Rising Sun."
Having trained under mixed martial arts (MMA) mainstay and Pride FC veteran, Renzo Gracie, for some time now, Edgar has a fairly good resource for what it will be like to fight in Japan.
"Oh yeah. Renzo, I talk to him all the time. I train at his academy in New York. I'll definitely be picking his brain about certain things about competing here in Japan. I'm sure within these next few months, I'll get more specific. Right now, it's just kinda general, like getting over here and having enough time to acclimate and what not. Over the next couple of months, I'm sure he's gonna be sharing a lot of tips with me."
Another obstacle that Edgar will have to face is that because of the time difference, his fight versus Henderson will actually take place in the morning. He's not scared. And he's certainly not packing any pre-fight excuses.
In fact, he says bring it on:
"It's definitely something I gotta be prepared for but, s---, I should be able to get out of bed and whoop someone's ass, right? I'm prepared for it."
Ultimately, Edgar's goal is to put on an exciting show for the fans at the Saitama Super Arena and bring home his belt. It's what he's trained for:
"My motivation in training is always to win. I think if I come in in shape and I put on a good show, it's gonna be exciting. The way I fight, you know, I think I have five ‘fight of the nights,' something like that. I put on exciting fights. I think it's just natural for me. I walk in there, I go forward and I look to win."
Hard to argue with any of that.
Will Edgar retain his belt and look good doing it on Feb. 26 in Japan? Is he in for another long first round in which this time he won't be able to escape? Or, are he and "Bendo" destined for a "Fight of the Night" bonus?