After epic clashes with BJ Penn and Gray Maynard, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar is finally getting the admiration that an elite fighter deserves. As he gets ready for his fourth title defense against Benson “Smooth” Henderson, we wanted some answers from “The Answer.”
You recently visited Japan for the first time for a UFC press conference. What was your impression of the country and the people?
Yeah, it was my first time there, and it was really nice. The people there are super polite and extremely educated fight fans. You always hear the old Pride guys talking about how Japanese people love MMA and treat fighters with respect—we saw a lot of that there. I was there to promote my fight with Benson Henderson, but all anyone wanted to ask me about was my training with Renzo Gracie. He’s a legend there. I got to hang out a bit with Rampage Jackson, who is a huge star there from his days in Pride. He gave us a rundown on the best places to visit. We had some great sushi, too. I’m looking forward to going back there with my family in February.
Speaking of Benson Henderson, have you brought anyone into your camp with long hair to help emulate his fighting style?
[Laughing] No, no, but Kris McCray is growing his semi-afro out so I guess that counts for something. No long hair fighters in camp, but I might have to bring someone in, now that you mention it.
What types of challenges do you think “Smooth” poses, and how are you preparing for him?
He’s a big guy with good takedown defense and a good ground game as well. He’s a well-rounded fighter. I’m just preparing like I always do, and that’s to get better with every fight and take care of the gameplan. I try not to worry about what my opponent brings to the table too much. We watch film and we strategize and all, but I focus on my training every day, focus on my gameplan, sticking to my gameplan, and keeping the same pace I have for my last five fights.
Henderson has looked outstanding in his last few fights, manhandling a highly regarded Jim Miller and then imposing his will on Clay Guida. Are you impressed with your next challenger?
Yeah, he’s a great fighter. He’s big and is good wherever the fight goes. He’s athletic and very hard to submit.
Your trainers like to mix it up on fight night with instructions. Mark Henry [boxing instructor] calls out combinations using highway street names and different languages. Will you be learning Japanese for this fight?
[Laughing] Yeah, Mark is crazy like that. He likes to throw off everybody, including us. I don’t know what he’ll do. I’m sure he’ll come up with something. Sometimes he makes things up as he goes along.
Your training partners have improved along with you on your UFC journey. Are you sticking with the same core group of fighters at Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie BJJ?
Yes. Those guys are all doing great. Eddie Alvarez had a tough loss in Bellator, but that happens. He’ll be back. Chris Liguori and Tom DeBlass are winning a lot now and are champions in their divisions locally, and McCray is climbing back, racking up back-to-back wins. I’m bringing in some guys with specialized skills and guys who are just tough, so we’re always mixing it up.
Are you interested in taking a superfight with Jose Aldo in the future?
Right now, with Henderson on my plate, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just going to worry about him. I do find 145 pounds intriguing, and superfights like that are great. We’ll see what happens.
Holding two UFC belts at the same time would be impressive.
Yeah, that would be great. I would love that. I don’t know if UFC would let me do that, but that is something I would definitely be interested in. Who wouldn’t?
Arigato, Frankie. See you in Japan.