UFC 112 is just days away, and the anticipation grows more and more as the days pass.
MMA and UFC fans will witness history when the Ultimate Fighting Championship holds the event in Abu Dhabi for the first Middle East MMA fight.
Not only will this be the UFC’s first trek through the Middle East, but also its first time holding a fight card outdoors at the state-of-the-art Ferrari World Arena.
Those involved in this historic MMA event recognize it as such, and they hold it as a shining symbol of pride that they can tell their children’s children about.
One fighter who holds the event so near and dear is UFC 112 co-main event participant Frankie “The Answer” Edgar.
Edgar will fight BJ Penn for his coveted UFC lightweight title and he couldn’t feel more excited for chance to do so.
“It’s an honor, man,” said Edgar in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. “It’s definitely something that I’m going to look back on in my career, and definitely be proud of. First outdoor fight. First fight in the Middle East. I mean, it’s definitely a big thing to be a part of.”
Does the pressure of a historic fight against such a dominant opponent shake “The Answer?”
“Not really, there’s definitely some unknowns, you know, being that it’s outside, it’s in a different country. Just the title itself adds some pressure…I’m definitely the underdog in this one, so I’m just going to have fun with it.”
Underdog is right. Oddsmakers have Penn as an overwhelming favorite to Edgar, and for good reason.
The lightweight champion, Penn, has run through the division without so much as getting hit very much.
In his last bout, Penn dominated a confident challenger in Diego Sanchez to the point of preventing the San Diego native from landing more than eight strikes through four-and-a-half rounds.
Prior to Sanchez, Penn thoroughly schooled the man who many consider to be the world’s second-best lightweight, Kenny Florian.
His last two fights were so one-sided, that BJ Penn made a giant statement about there being a gap between himself and the rest of the 155-pound crowd.
There are very few who doubt Penn’s grip on the fighting world, and his UFC 112 opponent agrees with the masses.
“Yeah, I do, I do,” said Frankie when asked if he agrees with the opinion that Penn is the world‘s best lightweight. “I mean, he’s earned that title. Um, he kind of ran through everybody in the 155-pound division, so…there’s no reason not to say he’s the best in the world.
"I’m really looking forward to this fight, you know. I want to create my own legacy…it’s a great way to try and do that.”
Frankie Edgar obviously has a great deal of respect for Penn, but that’s not to say he doesn’t think that BJ’s status doesn’t have the potential of catching up with him. As a matter of fact, Edgar feels he may have seen a glimpse of this in recent history.
“I think it may have caught with him a bit in the GSP fight and, and uh, he kind of learned from it,” said Edgar.
Apart from his loss to Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn has had little to look back on to identify flaws.
Up until the Sanchez fight, Penn was judged for not having the best endurance, but Frankie feels his opponent has defeated those opinions.
“I think…his biggest question always was whether his conditioning was good or not,” said Edgar. “You seen his last two fights. He went to the later rounds and he was still in there, so, I don’t think that’s really going to be, really, an issue for him anymore.
"I think he addressed that. I’m not going to come into this fight thinking, oh, just get him tired and I’ll be able to win. I don’t think that’s the same BJ anymore.”
As far as Edgar and his own fights, he’s defeated some of the best in the world, including Tyson Griffin, Hermes Franca, and former lightweight champion Sean Sherk.
The only blemish on Edgar’s record, actually, is a three-round war with Gray Maynard that he lost by unanimous decision.
The loss served a great purpose for “The Answer.”
“It was definitely an eye-opener for me. I really didn’t have a gym to call home. Right before then I, kind of, was just bouncing around a lot and now, you know, I’m with Ricardo Almeida…It definitely opened my eyes to realize that I need to find a team, find support, kind of, like a family.”
And find a team, he did.
Edgar joined up with jiu-jitsu ace Ricardo Almeida and now has a home to call his own when it comes to training for competition.
Frankie also said that he’s, “been training with Eddie Alvarez. I go to Renzo’s in the city from time to time.”
Speaking of the legendary Renzo Gracie, he also fights at UFC 112 and against a legend in his own right in Matt Hughes.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Gracie is no spring chicken.
The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu master is making his UFC debut after just having celebrated his 43rd birthday last month.
With the recent trend of 40+ aged athletes competing in mixed martial arts, Frankie Edgar weighed in on the matter.
“If they can do it, why not?!” Frankie chuckled about fighters in their 40s. “Renzo definitely can…he definitely don’t look like he’s 43 years old, for sure. I have a ton of respect for guys who can compete at that level at that age. I can only hope that, one day, I can do that, as well.”
Is Frankie Edgar going to compete in what fans and media have playfully named the “senior division” once he gets to that age?
“I’m going to do it until, pretty much, my body doesn’t let me. Hopefully, my body will cooperate and I can compete as long as Renzo fought.”
How does one prepare for a fight with someone with a resume like BJ Penn’s?
Frankie, a New Jersey native, looks at what he has back at home as the right tools to help him prepare for the dominant champion.
“I put myself in the best position to win this fight,” said Edgar. “I put the right people around me. I have the right camp. I trained properly, so, I’m just gonna go in there and let it all loose.”
Bringing in coaches like Phil Nurse has given Frankie the preparation he’s needed to have what he is a great chance on Saturday against Penn.
“I think I can compete with anyone in the world in my weight class, and this is this the ultimate test. I have confidence. I’m not going into this fight to lose. He is considered the best. He’s the favorite, but, I’m still gonna go up in there and fight to win.”
A win for Edgar will be, by far, the biggest in his career.
Despite having the majority of the MMA community put Penn as the favorite, Frankie Edgar will be bringing all of his Jersey swagger with him to UFC 112 looking to shock the world.
UFC 112 takes place on Saturday, April 10, in Abu Dhabi, UAB at 1 p.m. ET, 10am PT but will replay at the standard US time of 10 p.m. ET, 7pm PT.
You can also follow Erik “Nahm” Fontanez on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NahmMMA