Frankie Edgar finds new home at bantamweight after years of resisting dropping weight classes

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 mins read

LAS VEGAS — As Frankie Edgar and Pedro Munhoz were battling in what turned out to be the Fight of the Night on Saturday at Apex, UFC president Dana White received a text message from a familiar face.

Former matchmaker Joe Silva, who retired after the company’s sale in 2016, reached out to White about Edgar, who was making his bantamweight debut. Edgar won the UFC lightweight title in 2010 and most recently competed at featherweight.

On Saturday, he won a split decision in a spirited battle with Munhoz, who gave as good as he got for all 25 minutes. Judges Derek Cleary and Eric Colon had it 48-47 for Edgar, while Sal D’Amato had it 49-46 for Munhoz. Yahoo Sports had it 48-47 for Munhoz, giving him Rounds 1, 3 and 4.

Watching Edgar perform beautifully at 135 pounds reminded Silva of Edgar’s obstinance years ago in making that drop.

“Joe Silva texted me and he said, ‘Remember how pissed Frankie would get at us for asking him to drop down?’” White said.

But clearly, even though there was plenty of doubt about the verdict, Edgar has found a new home. Munhoz felt he won the fight and said he thought Edgar’s reputation as a former champion and MMA legend swayed the judges to score the close rounds for him.

Munhoz, though, said that Edgar, who turns 39 in October, more than proved he’s capable of being a factor in the bantamweight division.

“Without a doubt [he belongs with the elite at 135],” Munhoz said. “He seems healthy, very strong, good cardio and he has a lot of good skills. He belongs there.”

Edgar did not attend the post-fight news conference and was transported to a local hospital for a precautionary examination. He’d heard for weeks leading up to the fight how he’d come to the end of the line and answered countless questions about his age.

He took a measure of revenge after the scores were read, feeling he’d proved his point.

“I heard a lot of [expletives] barking that I’m old, I’m slow,” Edgar told ESPN after leaving the cage. “I definitely proved them all wrong … I’m showing I can compete with the best at 38 years old. I don’t want to hear nothing from nobody.”

All he’s going to hear over the next few weeks is praise for his gutsy effort and how he should have been at bantamweight long ago.

But Edgar’s choice to resist that decision until there was no other choice is representative of the attitude that so many of these fighters bring. A large reason for the sport’s burgeoning popularity is because of fighters like Edgar, who may appear to be physically overmatched but still are eager to take down the giant.

Frankie Edgar reacts after his split decision victory over Pedro Munhoz in their bantamweight fight during UFC Fight Night at UFC Apex on Aug. 22, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Frankie Edgar reacts after his split decision victory over Pedro Munhoz in their bantamweight fight during UFC Fight Night at UFC Apex on Aug. 22, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

White learned long ago never to doubt Edgar, and Edgar rewarded him for his faith on Saturday.

“The career the guy has had has been unbelievable,” White said. “The fact that he’s still performing the way he’s performing at his age and the wars he’s been through and all of the things that he’s accomplished, I’d say he looked pretty damn good tonight.”

That would have been true win or lose. Munhoz had a good argument, though, and the fight turned on how the third round was scored.

The judges agreed on Rounds 1, 2 and 4. Cleary gave the third round to Edgar, while Colon and D’Amato had that round for Munhoz. Had Cleary given the third to Munhoz, he would have won the split decision, not Edgar.

Munhoz noted that 17 of 20 media scores favored him, and he noted all the damage he’d delivered.

“It’s not just the leg kicks,” Munhoz said. “I was hurting him with jabs. I chased him for five rounds. He got a couple takedowns, but he couldn’t do anything with them and I got up right away. I was looking for the finish.”

Munhoz said he felt he hurt Edgar several times, but credited Edgar with hiding it well.

Hiding the fact that he’s been hurt is one of just many things that Edgar does well, and has done well for the last 15 years. And while he’s not going to get a title shot based off of one fight in the division, rest assured, he’ll be in the mix.

He’s one of the most courageous and tenacious fighters in the sport’s history and just when you start to dig his grave, he reminds you that he’s not ready just yet.

“There are some people ahead of him, but he put on a good show and put himself into good position,” White said. “He’s got some work to do there [to get a title shot]. Two or one, I don’t know. It depends who he fights next. But he looked [great].”

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