Edgar fighting for more than personal gain

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
11:03
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Training for his featherweight debut against titleholder Jose Aldo involved blood, sweat and a bit more tears than usual for Frankie Edgar.

This camp was nothing like any the former UFC lightweight champion had ever experienced. His intensity level remained the same, and the sparring sessions were among the toughest. But it wasn’t necessarily the physical aspect of this camp that made it different from those in the past -- it was the emotions.

As he prepared to begin training in late October for his showdown with Aldo, Superstorm Sandy struck Edgar’s home state of New Jersey. Edgar resides in Toms River, which is located near the shore.

Sandy hit the area hard. Edgar’s home was spared, but some of his friends and family members weren’t as fortunate.

“Seaside, which is over the bridge from where I live, and some areas along the water, where I live, are totally decimated,” Edgar told ESPN.com. “My mother-in-law’s house got condemned. They had to knock it down a couple of weeks ago.

“A lot of people lost a lot of stuff. I’ve got friends and family who own businesses along the shore, and they can’t make any money right now.”

The storm also forced Edgar to alter his training regimen early on as he opted to help people in the area rebound from the devastation. Rather than train twice a day, Edgar did one session per day.

That slight change in routine, however, had no impact on his overall preparation. Training returned to normal relatively quickly, but Edgar still found time to lend a hand in neighboring communities that struggled to rebuild.

To see so many neighbors lose so much touched Edgar in a very personal way. He remains fiercely competitive -- he knows no other way -- but Mother Nature's destructive ways have forced Edgar to look at life differently.

“It just goes to show you that anything can be taken away in the blink of an eye,” Edgar said. “It puts things in perspective.

“It shows that there is a lot more to life than fighting. Obviously this week and the magnitude of this fight kind of takes your whole life over. But something like that [Sandy] where you see people losing their homes, losing their lives, goes to show you that this is just a small piece of what you have.”

While Edgar is much more reflective these days -- it seems everyone directly impacted by Sandy falls into that category -- he has not lost his fighting edge. In many ways, he is more determined than ever to return home with the title belt.

Edgar trained for this fight with a sense of purpose like never before. The difference this time is he’s fighting for more than himself and his family; Edgar is fighting for his entire community -- the state of New Jersey.

In fact, having to cut 10 additional pounds forced him to eat better -- no pizzas in this camp. As a result, Edgar is feeling faster and stronger.

“I feel great, maybe better than ever,” Edgar said. “And I think I’m going to take this fight because I did everything I had to do to make sure my hand gets raised Saturday night. I feel like a man possessed.

“It gives the people who are still struggling -- even my friends who still don’t have their businesses open -- a little slice of the pie. It gives them a chance to say ‘we’re building back up, and it starts with the title.’”

When Edgar defeated BJ Penn in August 2010 to claim the UFC lightweight belt, he returned home a hero. He was the local kid who achieved greatness; it was all about celebrating his personal accomplishment.

But Saturday night’s fight, which takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center, represents much more. Edgar is fighting for his family, friends and an entire state that could use a little extra inspiration.

He knows that bringing a UFC title back to Jersey will serve as the latest reminder that things are returning to normal.

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