For no matter how long it lasts, when UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar’s reign at the top of what is arguably the UFC’s most talent-rich division has ended, he will have faced a murderer’s row of number one contenders.
He’s already taken out B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard and will face an invigorated Ben Henderson later this month at UFC 144 in his next defense. Should Edgar get past Henderson, there are several threatening contenders training hard right now with title hopes in mind to keep Edgar busy for as long as he holds the strap.
That’s alright with Edgar, though. He’s here to be top dog and facing the best in the world just comes with the territory.
“For me, right now, to be the lightweight champ, it means everything,” says Edgar. “I’m not in this to play second fiddle to anybody.”
And the best in the world is what he’ll get in Ben Henderson, a former WEC champion who has gone on a tear since losing that belt and transitioning to the UFC. Henderson has put on a string of inspired performances during his three-fight stint in the UFC and is gunning for Edgar’s belt at full steam.
Edgar sees him coming and, sure, it might be an intimidating sight, but that plays right into the champion’s methodology; viewing his opponent as a real threat to his run at the top gets Edgar motivated to go the extra mile. The surging Henderson has done that for Edgar and the champion believes that it will result in his remaining at the top of the dog pile.
“He’s a great athlete,” Edgar says of Henderson. “He’s a big ’55-pounder. He possesses a lot of good skills: he’s very hard to submit, he’s got a strong wrestling base, he’s a unique striker. I don’t try to give my opponents any weaknesses because I want to put them on a pedestal. I almost like to go in fights a little scared of my opponents, because that’s gonna motivate me to win.
“When you’re the champ, the next guy you fight is always gonna be tough and that’s how I’m approaching it. When I leave Japan, I’m gonna come home still the champion. I know Ben’s a tough guy, but there’s a reason I’m the champion.”
UFC 144 goes down on Saturday, February 25 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.