One of the dangers of accepting late replacement fights is that a loss looks like a loss in the scrolling Wikipedia sense. Yet Frankie Edgar’s loss against Brian Ortega back at UFC 222 could easily support an asterisk. He was supposed to fight Max Holloway in Las Vegas, and — when Holloway went down with an injury — opted to stay on the card and face the next best comer. That happened to be the young gun Ortega.
Edgar lost the bout via fight-round knockout, but helped save an event.
That’s why Edgar — who bounced back to beat Cub Swanson in April — wasn’t overly stressing when Alexander Volkanovski ran his win streak to 17 straight with his victory over Jose Aldo at UFC 237 this past weekend. Volkanovski had screaming credentials and the hysteria of the moment, but Edgar had circumstances and a legacy of doing right by the UFC.
“I felt I was [next for Holloway] just based on the conversations I’ve had with the UFC and whatnot, but you never know,” Edgar told MMA Fighting on Tuesday, just a day after news broke that Edgar and Holloway would fight at UFC 241 in Edmonton on July 27.
“I’ve been told I was having shots before and haven’t got them. Of course I really wasn’t holding my breath, I wanted to make sure I got bout agreement and then I knew it’s real.”
For Edgar, this will be the third time he and Holloway will attempt to square off. They were first slated to fight at UFC 218 in Toronto, yet that time Edgar was forced to withdraw with an injury. Holloway ended up rematching Jose Aldo, whom he’d taken the title from six months earlier at UFC 212.
They were then booked to fight at UFC 222, and this time it was Holloway that went down. The two have been in each other’s crosshairs for more than a year, and somehow keep swerving off of each other. That’s why for Edgar he’s hoping the third time’s the charm.
“Every time I get ready for [Holloway] I feel like I’m getting ready for a better version,” he says. “He continually gets better, and he’s represented our weight class tremendously. He’s considered the best featherweight of all time, so these are the positions I want to keep putting myself in. I want to keep challenging myself. If I want to take the belt, I want to take the belt from the best featherweight ever. This is my opportunity.
“Remember, nine years ago I was fighting for a belt that nobody thought I could win against the best lightweight of all time, so for me this is fitting.”
Nine years ago is when Edgar was booked as a massive underdog to challenge B.J. Penn at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. Not many people gave Edgar a chance to upend the consensus lightweight GOAT, but he managed to score a unanimous decision and solidify his name as a champion.
Since losing his title at UFC 144 against Benson Henderson, Edgar has been on a warpath to win it back. He has been booked into three subsequent title fights — the rematch with Henderson at UFC 150, and then two fights with featherweight king Jose Aldo — yet has come up short in each. The title has proven an elusive goal for Edgar, who is now 37 years old. Still, over the last 10 fights he has gone 10-2, including the late shake-up fight with Ortega.
That kind of road should lead to somewhere, and Edgar is all smiles that it led — finally — to a long-coveted fight with the Hawaiian, Holloway.
“We’re still over 10 weeks away from the fight, and I’m giddy today,” he says. “I woke up and went to train, I’ve got a smile on my face and I’m pumped that I got this opportunity. But it is still so far away, and I’ve been here before. So I got to make sure we get to the fight, get to the venue and make it happen.
“But ten weeks this upcoming Saturday, that’ll be the perfect time. I’ve been training. I was hurt for a while, the past month-and-a-half, I’ve been finally back in the gym able to do stuff. So it is perfect timing. I feel like I’m in shape to get in shape right now.”
The injury that Edgar suffered — a torn bicep that forced him out of a fight with Chan Sung Jung this past November — is finally healed entirely. “It took forever, but it’s 100 percent,” he says. Now the goal is to stay healthy for his much-anticipated scrap with Holloway in Alberta, a fight that he believes he has more earned through course of action.
As for Volkanovski, who was hospitalized with a blood infection on Sunday? He hopes he gets well soon, and that he can wait it out.
“I think it should matter,” he says of his resume. “You hear Dana [White] and UFC brass, they like people that step up, they like guys that are willing to put it all on the line, and I think my whole career I’ve done that. And I think that’s why I got rewarded.
“I think so, based on my past history with the UFC, and then the landscape of the way went down with me and Holloway, I think it just makes sense. I don’t want to take anything away from Alex, he’s a stud fighter. He’s won a bunch of fights in a row. He’s going to get his time. I was him not too long ago, and he’s going to get his time. I know he’s probably a little upset, because I’ve been there before. But his time will come.”