Frankie Edgar has been waiting for another title shot ever since his featherweight debut, but he doesn’t regret switching divisions three years ago.
The former UFC lightweight champion is on the cusp of a second opportunity at the 145-pound belt thanks to a clear No. 1 contender fight against No. 3-ranked Chad Mendes at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale on Friday in Las Vegas.
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Edgar said he has no qualms about his decision despite the long road back to the top.
“I feel like, who knows, maybe I could end up back at one day,” Edgar said. “But I’m OK with where I’m at right now.”
Edgar switched to featherweight in 2012 following two close championship losses to Benson Henderson that took him out of the title picture at lightweight. The New Jersey native made his 145-pound debut in early 2013, falling in another decision to champion Jose Aldo.
Despite three straight wins after the Aldo defeat, he was passed over following Aldo’s last title defense against Mendes, making way for Conor McGregor. After putting another win together against former WEC champion Urijah Faber in May, Edgar appeared to be next in line after McGregor’s shot at UFC 189, but an injury to Aldo delayed McGregor’s chance at the undisputed title.
McGregor may have surpassed him without facing some of the division’s elite, but Edgar can’t be mad at the Irishman.
“Maybe kudos to Conor, but 145 may be the most talked-about division in the UFC right now, and that puts me in the thick of things,” Edgar said.
Edgar nearly faced McGregor as Aldo’s replacement at UFC 189, but Mendes was tabbed instead.
“I don’t know if I was in fight shape like I am right now, but I was ready to go,” Edgar said. “I definitely threw my name in the hat and I was hoping to get that opportunity.”
Another opportunity may come up again if Aldo has to back out a second time before Saturday’s title unification bout against McGregor at UFC 194. Despite waiting this long for his title shot, Edgar said he wasn’t banking on getting the shot sooner thanks to “tunnel vision” on Mendes.
“Chad is definitely a tough opponent, so I don’t want to be sitting there half getting ready for him, half getting ready for someone else cause that’s now what you do against a guy like Chad,” Edgar said. “I knew if it did come to that I would be in shape because I’m getting ready for Chad.”
“Obviously it would be a different style of opponent, but you know, we’re in here banging it out and I think I’d be ready either way.”
While Mendes is 1-2 in his last three fights with defeats against Aldo and McGregor, Edgar called the wrestler “one of the toughest guys I’m going to come across” in mixed martial arts.
“I think we’re similar in certain ways and different in others,” Edgar said. “We both like to scrap on our feet, but we do it in different ways.”
Edgar’s respect for Mendes doesn’t mean he’s lacking confidence. He still expects to win and earn the shot at his second title, but a potential Aldo-McGregor rematch may slow things yet again.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m hoping a rematch doesn’t happen and I can fight the winner next. That’s what I’m hoping for, but anything can happen,” Edgar said.
And a long layoff may be a problem.
“I’ve only fought once this year and I don’t want to sit around and wait,” Edgar said. “And I’d definitely like to fight more than once next year.”