A professional to the end, Frankie Edgar could have decided that for his final fight he would remove weight cutting from the entire equation. Maybe a move from bantamweight back to featherweight, or even a jump to the division he once ruled at 155 pounds.
“I made the switch and ever since I decided to go to '35, I can't really get over '60, so it just makes sense to stay here.”
So 135 pounds it is for the 41-year-old from Toms River, New Jersey, as he makes the walk for the last time on Saturday to face Chris Gutierrez at Madison Square Garden. It’s been a career to be proud of for “The Answer,” both in and out of the Octagon, but all good things must come to an end, and this was the perfect time and setting.
“I just think now's the time because the way my last couple fights went definitely weren't the way I wanted to go,” said Edgar, who is coming off a pair of knockout losses to Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, losing to two of the best in the bantamweight division, but this is a fighter who craves winning at the highest level of the sport, and the competitor in him refuses to be a gatekeeper. So after those defeats, he thought it might be the end, but getting one more shot in the Garden was too tempting to turn down.
“With the way they ended, I wasn't sure I was gonna even come back, but I had a surgery so I'm feeling pretty good, and I said let's get one more. I want to go out on a good note. Not that I didn't have good camps in my two previous fights, but they were tough camps just because I was dealing with some issues, and I wanted to go out on a good note.”
And what happened when he told his wife, Renee, of his plan? Edgar laughs.
“She's always game for the ride. Everything I put her through at this point, she's not surprised by anything.”
What did surprise Mr. Edgar was that as he went through training camp, there was a sense of nostalgia, that this was the last time he was going to get that hard sparring, the drills, the gameplanning with coach Mark Henry and, of course, the weight cut.
“I'm not a sentimental person, really, but I did feel that way,” said Edgar on November 1. “I was with Mark today, and we were joking, saying, 'Wow, this will be our last Tuesday together training for a fight.' His wife commemorated it with a picture.”
Not a pizza from Jersey’s finest, Pino’s Pizzeria?
“That's for afterwards,” laughs Edgar, who may not be emotional now, but will likely be as soon as he puts his gloves down for the last time. That’s the hardest fight for anyone in the business, especially for someone who impacted the sport like Edgar did over the last 17 years. Fighting everyone and anyone, Edgar reigned over the lightweight division from 2010 to 2012, and while that would have been enough for most, he then went on to become a contender in the featherweight and bantamweight divisions. Along the way, he had epic fights with Gray Maynard, Benson Henderson, Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira and Pedro Munhoz, and defeated the likes of BJ Penn, Sean Sherk, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Yair Rodriguez. The only question left for “The Answer” is, what replaces that feeling this sport has brought to him for almost two decades?
“I have some ideas and things I want to do,” he said. “I definitely need something to dive into, for sure. But I had fighting, and I was concentrating on it so much that I never could dive into anything else. I'm kind of an all or nothing type of guy, and that's why I never opened a gym or started another business venture for the most part. I always had my hand in this or that, but never fully jumped into it because I never wanted to take away from my fighting career. But now that it's over, I think I'll be able to do that.”
He'll also get to spend more time with Renee and their three kids, who will all be in attendance this Saturday to watch him do his thing one more time. And when he steps into the Octagon with Gutierrez, he will have the same attitude he’s always had.
“It's like every fight, whether it’s your last one or your first one,” Edgar said. “My first fight ever and my last fight, I still want to win just as badly. And there's still some kind of outside distraction, some guy that wants to beat me and some guy that wants to make a name off me. So it's very familiar territory.”
That’s why Frankie Edgar is beloved. It’s that familiar territory, that reality that when he’s in the Octagon you always know what you’re going to get. Death, taxes and Frankie Edgar. Two we can do without, one reliable part of life that is going to be missed. But not forgotten. Oh no, never forgotten.
“When anybody watches me fight, the best compliment I can get is, 'Man, you want to win. You want it more than the other guy,'” he said. “They can tell, no matter what, that I'm all-in on these fights. Win, lose or draw, I'm giving my whole hundred percent self. That's what I want to be remembered for.”
Done deal. And if he wins big on Saturday night, could this retirement be put on hold?
Edgar laughs, knowing I had to ask.
“A lot of my team says I'm gonna sit there and pull a 'Wolf of Wall Street' and say 'I'm not f**kin' leaving.' But I was never gonna be the guy to say, ‘I'm gonna retire.’ I was just gonna walk away. But by saying I'm gonna retire before it happens, I think it’s gonna hold myself accountable and I gotta move on to the next chapter of my life.”
UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 12, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!