It wasn’t two minutes after Frankie Edgar’s shutout 50-45, 50-45, 50-45—or as I like to call it, The Hawaii Five-Oh—unanimous decision against BJ Penn, that my phone started buzzing with text messages from various friends and Twitter followers who know I’m close with the UFC Lightweight Champ.
“I’d like to see how he does against Maynard,” said one, “then I’ll decide if he’s better than BJ Penn, or if BJ is just finished.”
Another text said, “Jose Aldo FTW!”
Huh? What the hell does this kid have to do to earn the respect of the MMA faithful? The guy just manhandled Baby Jay, and no other 155-pounder has even taken Penn down (other than Paul Creighton in 2002), never mind dominate him everywhere inside the Octagon.
For my part, I had no doubt Edgar was going to win again, and that’s not to disparage BJ Penn in any way, shape, or form. I love BJ Penn. But the confidence with which Edgar walked into this fight, after beating Penn the first time, was difficult to overlook. Couple that with his rigorous and relentless training, and that’s a difficult proposition for any opponent.
The kid just keeps getting better and better.
The thing about Edgar is, he knows he’ll always be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to winning over fans and the MMA media, and he couldn’t care less about it. At the post-fight press conference, I asked him if it was important to put an exclamation point on the victory and erase any doubt as to who the champion is.
“I think it was more important for you guys [the media] than it is for me,” Edgar said. “I go in every fight trying to win. But it definitely gets some of you guys off my back, that’s for sure.”
And for the most part, he’s right. Most of the journalists who have been around MMA for a long time are now Edgar believers, from FIGHT!’s own Donovan Craig to Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole and Showdown Joe from Canada.
There was no Monday morning quarterbacking this time around.
After the fight, Edgar had such a hard time peeing for the Boston Athletic Commission’s drug test, he had to go back and try again after the press conference.
Backstage at the TD Garden, I stood with manager Shari Spencer and about 20 of Frankie’s family, friends, and training camp members in his dressing room, waiting outside the bathroom while the champion did his business.
Suddenly BJ Penn walks in, accompanied by only a commission member.
To say the moment was awkward is an understatement. BJ, all alone, was in enemy territory. He was visibly uncomfortable, and one could see he was trying hard to resist the urge to leave the room.
Something had to be done, so I broke the ice by walking over to give “The Prodigy” a hug and asked him when he could do my show on HDNet.
“Anytime bra,” he said in that Hawaiian, laid back way.
Then, in one of the classiest moves I’ve seen in MMA, Edgar’s boxing coach, Mark Henry, approached Penn with his 13-year old son, who excitedly asked for a picture.
Pretty soon Henry, his son Pino, and even striking coach Phil Nurse were gathered around Penn, backslapping each other and posing for pictures.
If there was a passing of the torch in the lightweight division that night, it was evident that BJ Penn will always be one of the greatest mixed martial artists and someone who all fans, fighters, and observers of the sport will revere no matter what happens inside the Octagon.