Does Frankie Edgar deserve more shots like these against Ben Henderson? Dana White doesn't want to see it.
UFC President Dana White tonight responded during the UFC on FX 2: "Alves vs. Kampmann" pre-fight press conference. And it's a pretty solid bet that Edgar's cauliflowered ears aren't going to be too thrilled to hear his latest statements.
"I talked to him on the phone," said White. "I think everybody is pretty clear on what I would like to see him do -- I'd like to see him go down to his natural weight of 145 pounds."
Edgar just dropped a five-round unanimous decision to "Smooth" in the UFC 144 main event at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, this past weekend, ending his nearly two-year stranglehold on the 155-pound division.
However, during that span, "The Answer" only fought two guys, albeit in a total of four championship matches.
He outpointed B.J. Penn at UFC 112 in April 2010 to win the belt, then defeated the "Prodigy" again in an immediate rematch four months later at UFC 118. Then Gray Maynard came calling, drilling Edgar from pillar to post in their bout at UFC 125 in Jan. 2011, coming about as close to forcing an early stoppage as humanly possible.
However, the Toms River, N.J., tough guy battled back against all odds to register a dreaded draw, which again sparked another immediate rematch (in this case a trilogy bout) with "The Bully." Edgar would once again prove all the skeptics wrong in their third encounter, scoring a technical knockout in round four after somehow surviving yet another punishing blitzkrieg in the opening frame.
With all the controversy in the rear-view mirror, Edgar was finally able to focus on a fresh opponent, Henderson, a former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion. He, along with most of the lightweight division, held a huge size advantage over the 5'6" Edgar, and did significant damage over the course of the 25-minute fight, accordingly.
Edgar, as usual, absorbed the punishment, as well as fired back, bobbing, weaving and landing shots with solid frequency. However, the shots did little to no damage to Henderson and didn't do enough to impress the ringside judges, either.
That's not to say it wasn't close -- White actually scored the fight in Edgar's favor on his unofficial scorecard and the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's matchmaker, Joe Silva, thought he won by a "landslide." Nonetheless, this is a business, one in which White feels he can't let his personal feelings mess with, even if Edgar has "earned" the chance based on his most recent rematch activity.
"I feel like Frankie Edgar absolutely deserves a rematch [against Ben Henderson], seeing as how every time this guy has fought, he's given everyone else a rematch," he said. "Yet, I don't want him to fight at 155 pounds, I want him to go to 145 and fight for that title. And if we do give him a rematch, it clogs up [the division] -- there are other guys that are in line waiting and it's just a big mess."
Those "guys" are most likely another former WEC champion, Anthony Pettis -- who already holds a recent (and very marketable) win over Henderson -- and Nate Diaz and Jim Miller, who will meet in the UFC on Fox 3 main event in May to likely determine the next title contender, or at the very least, the man who will face "Showtime" in an eliminator match.
That actually wouldn't be a bad scenario to play out: Have Pettis wait for the winner of Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller, while Edgar and Henderson rematch. The winners of each fight will then collide later this year. Everyone, well, at least Edgar, is happy. Then again, Edgar could win the rematch and a third, defining fight, against Henderson will be required.
White simply doesn't want to travel down that road (again).
"There is no doubt, when you talk about respecting a guy, I have so much respect for Frankie Edgar and what he's been able to do at 155 pounds because he had to -- because there wasn't a 145-pound division -- and he did it," said White. "I really like and respect Frankie Edgar as a human being -- take the whole fighting thing out of it. This guy belongs at 145 pounds. When you are a professional fighter, you have a small window of opportunity to compete and be a professional athlete. There are only so many wars you have in you. You can't have this long, amazing career fighting wars all the time. So, I don't know."
The good news is that White is offering Edgar an immediate title shot against UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, who has actually expressed his desire to compete at 155 pounds in the near future. "Scarface" is on a ridiculous 14-fight win streak and has essentially cleared out the division.
A fight against Edgar would certainly be the stiffest test of his promising career.
"He will walk straight into a title shot, absolutely," White said of Edgar. "If I'm going to deny him the rematch for a 155-pound title and make him move to 145 pounds, and then say, 'Yeah, you're going to have to fight a couple fights to get the title,' does that sound right? No."
The bad news is that aside from Aldo, and perhaps up-and-comers Dustin Poirier and Chan Sung Jung, who are expected to meet in the UFC on FUEL TV 3 main event on May 15, 2012, the 145-pound talent cupboard is rather bare. It's far from ideal from Edgar's perspective in the long-term. What's more, the cache of being a featherweight champion versus a lightweight champion is significantly less, as well as the paydays and sponsorship opportunities.
So, it's hard to blame Edgar for sticking to his guns, pushing back and requesting what he most likely should receive, which is at least one more chance to prove that he belongs in the lightweight division. Something that he apparently has not done yet in 12 appearances inside the Octagon, during which he has compiled a very impressive record (9-2-1).
"Controversy sucks," White concluded. "I don't know what is going to happen in this situation. This whole thing is a nightmare."
And it doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon --1,2, Frankie's coming for you, 3,4, better lock your door, 5,6, ...