It is being said that this is do-or-die time for Frankie Edgar, a must-win situation for his mixed martial arts career. Edgar, however, would beg to differ -- somewhat.
Currently riding a three-fight losing skid (all title bouts), Edgar is in serious need of a win. He will seek to right the ship Saturday night against crafty Charles Oliveira at UFC 162 in Las Vegas.
Is Edgar in a must-win situation? Sure. Is there weight on his shoulders? Yes. Is he feeling the pressure? No doubt. It all adds up to a sense of urgency.
But this sense of urgency is no different than what Edgar experiences before every bout. There was a sense of urgency on July 10, 2005, when he made his professional debut during an Underground Combat League fight in the Bronx, N.Y.
It was no different when Edgar faced Hermes Franca on July 19, 2008, at UFC Fight Night 14. Edgar stepped into the cage that evening for the first time with a blemish on his record -- Gray Maynard outmuscled him three months earlier en route to a unanimous decision.
Then there were the title bouts: two wins against legendary BJ Penn, a draw with and knockout of Maynard, and the current losing streak -- two very close lightweight affairs against Benson Henderson and one, the most recent setback, to featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Whether a title is on the line or not, the sense of urgency Edgar feels remains the same.
This prefight adrenaline rush comes from Edgar’s unwavering desire to become or remain a champion. And the only way to achieve this goal is to win the fight immediately in front of him. Nothing else -- what took place before or what might happen afterward -- matters.
“Your next fight is always the most important, so for me everything is on the line,” Edgar told ESPN.com. “I’m very competitive and I want to win no matter what’s on the line.
“The fight’s on the line and that’s just as important to me as a title. I want to win this fight just as much as I want to win a title.”
Expect Edgar (15-4-1) to perform at his usual high level: precision striking, pinpoint takedowns, nonstop head movement and solid footwork. A three-fight losing skid has done nothing to diminish Edgar’s confidence, skills or work ethic.
This training camp has been as smooth as any before it. Edgar is feeling great heading into fight week. And with this camp being his second for a 145-pound contest, the weight cut proved easier – not that Edgar expressed having too much trouble making weight for his initial featherweight bout against Aldo.
“I’m a little more familiar on how to get my body down to featherweight,” Edgar said. “But I’m not cutting much weight at all.
“It doesn’t feel much different fighting at featherweight than it did at lightweight. I’m just a little stricter about what I’m putting in my body. Being it’s my second time doing this makes it a little easier.”
Edgar was a diminutive lightweight; he’s an average-sized featherweight. Which begs the question, is a bantamweight title shot in his future? Edgar isn’t ready to make any promises, nor will he rule anything out. The same goes for a return to lightweight.
Edgar is keeping all options on the table. The only nonnegotiable issue is becoming champion again. It’s his driving force, the thing that prevents him from taking this nontitle bout Saturday night lightly, the reason Oliveira (16-3) will get the best Edgar imaginable.
Oliveira has won only two of his six most recent fights. His name won’t be found on any top-10 featherweight lists. But the former lightweight, who failed to make weight in his most recent fight, is a skilled fighter.
“He’s a dangerous opponent, long, rangy, with a diverse striking game and slick, slick submission game,” Edgar said of Oliveira. “There are no easy fights in UFC and I’m prepared.
“I’ve fought the best in my last seven fights, they were all title fights. I will be ready for Charles.”
A victory will shut the door on the most difficult stretch of Edgar’s professional career to date. It also could open the discussion about a possible rematch with Aldo.
Edgar, who is ranked 10th among all mixed martial artists by ESPN.com, suffered a unanimous decision loss Feb. 2 to Aldo at UFC 156. But Edgar gave the No. 4-ranked fighter all he could handle during the encounter. Nearly every round was closely contested.
Aldo has expressed interest in moving to lightweight after his Aug. 3 title defense against Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163 in Rio de Janeiro. Nothing is definitive at this time, but it appears Aldo is on his way out the featherweight door.
A rematch with Aldo isn’t currently at the top of Edgar’s priority list -- Oliveira occupies that spot, but it’s somewhere in the back of his mind. Whether Aldo competes at featherweight or lightweight, it doesn’t matter to Edgar, as long as a title is on the line.
“My goal is always to be the champion,” Edgar said. “I really haven’t thought about what might happen in this division or the lightweight division as things change. I’m just worried about getting back to my winning ways and put myself in position to fight for a title.
“I’d love to fight Aldo again for the title, but we’ll see what happens.”