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Sunday, February 26, 2012
A fight for a title is only fair for Frankie

By Josh Gross

Frankie Edgar
Double disappointment: On top of losing, former champ Frankie Edgar might have to wait for a rematch.
Frankie Edgar posed the question.

“I’m not trying to shoot anybody out of anything they deserve, but I had to do two immediate rematches,” the now former UFC lightweight champion said after dropping a unanimous decision to Benson Henderson.

“What’s right?”

Is there some good faith that needs to be cashed in on? Because that's what Edgar implied.

Based on his set of circumstances -- beating B.J. Penn to claim the title (by a more lopsided score than Henderson celebrated in Japan) only for Zuffa to make a rematch; rallying to a draw against Gray Maynard, followed by another go against the powerful wrestler (that one was an inarguable must) -- should he have the favor returned?

What's right. Hmm. This is tricky.

Let's start here: Edgar's promoter, who, of course, is also Henderson's promoter, thought the 30-year-old underdog from Toms River, N.J., should have held on to the belt. So if Dana White is saying Edgar won, doesn't that bolster the “second chance” argument?

The fight was close, but not controversial. There's a good case that Henderson deserves to be champion. But there are also grounds to believe Edgar did enough to retain the title. Though this result doesn't inspire the uproar of the first Penn fight -- no judge issued a Doug Crosby-like 50-45 -- I'm not sure how anyone could stomach seeing Edgar sit as another fighter gets the first crack at a belt he went through hell to defend (or, worse yet, Edgar in some three-round, non-title affair).

Edgar gave up something of himself to win and hold the title. Does that factor at all into what's right?

If you say no, if you think a kid like Anthony Pettis -- coming off two wins in the UFC against unranked Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon following a loss to Clay Guida -- earned the next shot, I'm not sure how. Pettis' victory over Henderson in the WEC, the incredible "Showtime" kick off the fence late in the fifth, is the main argument for Henderson-Pettis 2. A rematch has the makings of an exciting, competitive contest. I'm not suggesting otherwise.
Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis
A rematch between Benson Henderson, left, and Anthony Pettis makes sense, but where does that leave Frankie Edgar?

But for all his dynamic ability, has Pettis actually done enough in the UFC to earn a title shot? More than a Jim Miller or Nate Diaz, who fight in May? Do they get next after Pettis? If yes, where does that leave Edgar?

Sorry for all the questions, but when you're trying to figure out what's right, this sort of stuff happens.

If Zuffa determines that Pettis is next -- a decision that largely comes down to what you, the fans, have to say about it -- will Edgar have to win to get back in the title picture? Or can he take six months off and call next? If he can sit out, wait for Henderson-Pettis 2 to unfold, then face the winner, I'm fine with that. Because, no matter what, the right thing includes Edgar fighting for a title.

This brings me to another option. The one many people, including myself, have long said is Edgar's best bet: dropping to featherweight.

Jose Aldo needs an opponent. Sure, Hatsu Hioki looked very good at UFC 144. Few people believe he'll pull off a shocker against Aldo. That's fine. The fight will come soon enough and the Japanese fighter, ranked No. 2 at 145, should have his chance to prove us all wrong -- much like Edgar did. But it's not an overly attractive fight, and won't sell a lick.

Aldo-Edgar has the potential to be tremendous -- for them, for us, for Zuffa. As of today, that's a dream fight. And it will remain so if Edgar has it in his soul to continue fighting at lightweight. If that's his call, he'll have to negotiate whatever gauntlet is laid in front of him. Zuffa can't force him to drop 10 pounds and fight Aldo, though they can keep him from an immediate title shot. Perhaps in doing so, Edgar's thinking may shift and the Aldo fight would become more attractive. We'll see.

While pondering what's right, how about including Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in this discussion?

Melendez may very well be the best lightweight in the world -- he just needs a chance to prove it. Edgar-Melendez is an insanely attractive fight. It's tremendous business for Showtime. And in the interest of fairness, the fight might be the perfect play for Zuffa. Having Henderson or Pettis versus Melendez or Edgar would unify belts and answer every question about the division at the same time.

Which man would emerge as MMA's true lightweight world champion? The best we can do now is guess, and that's not good enough. As always, the point is finding out -- fighters like Henderson, Edgar, Pettis, Melendez and Aldo deserve nothing less.

That's what's right.