UFC 200 Represents Frankie Edgar’s Last Chance To Reclaim UFC Title

With a star-studded main card, a trio of title fights, and the world of mixed martial arts watching every second, July’s UFC 200 will offer many of those fortunate enough to participate in the historical event a potentially career-changing opportunity.

For octagon great Frankie Edgar, UFC 200 and a rematch with Jose Aldo for the interim featherweight title represents his last chance to reclaim a UFC belt and prove that he still belongs among the sport’s elite.

Often lost in the controversial cloud of current featherweight king Conor McGregor and overshadowed by the Brazilian legend, Edgar has spent the past three years doing everything in his power to prove that he’s fully recovered from losing three straight title fights—two to former 155-pound champ Benson Henderson and one to Aldo, during a disastrous one-year period beginning in February of 2012.

On paper, Edgar has done exactly that, rattling-off five straight wins over the likes of Charles Oliveira, BJ Penn, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, and most recently, Chad Mendes, who ”The Answer” knocked-out in the opening round of their headliner at last December’s ”Ultimate Fighter” Finale.

But McGregor has reminded us all that the MMA fight game is about much more than a series of wins and losses. These days, the ability to trash-talk and constantly promote oneself are valuable additions to any fighter’s arsenal, and while the usually-humble Edgar has recently broken character while campaigning for a crack at the Irishman’s crown, he knows that Aldo is still one of the best featherweights on the planet.

In a recent interview with Fox Sports, Edgar briefly spoke about the rivalry that exists between the promotion’s top-three featherweights.

”I’ve got Jose on my mind 24/7 now,” said Edgar. ”He’s the most dominant featherweight that we’ve ever had. He stumbled his last fight but he’s still dangerous. I know he wants to get back at Conor and I know I want a chance at Conor as well so I’m definitely excited for this fight.”

Yet, even as Edgar prepares for what may be the biggest featherweight bout of the year, he’s still obviously focused on earning a shot at McGregor—something that the winner of his rematch with Aldo and the division’s interim champ will get if the Irishman chooses to remain at 145-pounds.

But during a press conference to promote UFC 200 in April, Edgar made it clear that he won’t be satisfied with winning only the interim featherweight title.

”Interim title isn’t the same thing, and we want the real title,” said Edgar. ”If Conor ever does come back to featherweight, I’m ready. I’m going to be ready, and it’s going to be different this time, and I’m walking home with the belt. It’s [the interim featherweight belt] the No. 1 contender belt—it’s what you call it really. But I do have a feeling Conor may never come back to 145, so in time, this belt will be the real belt.”

While it wouldn’t be too surprising if McGregor vacated his crown in order to compete as a full-time lightweight, or even welterweight, before Edgar can worry about anything else, he’ll have to earn his revenge against Aldo.

Coming off consecutive lightweight losses to Henderson, Edgar dug deep in a closely-contested, five-round war with Aldo at UFC 156 in February of 2013. Unfortunately for the proud New Jersey-native, the Brazilian walked away with a unanimous-decision victory to retain his featherweight title, leaving Edgar to pick up the pieces of his UFC career following a third straight loss.

For most, losing three straight in the octagon is usually the equivalent of UFC-suicide. But all three of those losses had come in title fights. And when added to Edgar’s reputation as a never-say-die contender willing to take-on any opponent, the fact that his loss to Aldo marked his seventh straight title fight ensured that he’d at least be given the chance to climb up the mountain one last time.

Although last May’s unanimous-decision victory over Faber finally forced his critics to recognize that the former UFC lightweight champion still had what it took to challenge for the featherweight title, it was last December’s first-round destruction of Mendes that paved the way to Edgar’s upcoming rematch with Aldo.

As a former UFC lightweight champion, Edgar will also have a chance to make history with a victory over Aldo in July by becoming only the third UFC fighter to win a belt in two separate weight classes, and during April’s press conference to promote UFC 200, Edgar stated that it’s something he’s wanted to accomplish for a few years now.

”Being a two-division champion is something I’ve been trying to do for a while since I first fought Aldo,” said Edgar. ”[On] July 9th, there’s going to be a two-division champion, and his name isn’t going to be Conor McGregor either.”

At the age of 34, UFC 200 could easily be Edgar’s last chance to reclaim a UFC title. But if we’ve learned anything about this grizzled octagon-vet during his nine-plus years in the sport’s leading promotion, it’s that you should never underestimate Frankie Edgar.

[Photo By-Dondi Tawatao]