When Frankie Edgar fights Jose Aldo at UFC 156, there will be more on the line than the featherweight belt.
The bout could crown a pound-for-pound champion — at least in the eyes of two future UFC hall of famers.
UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre said Edgar is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, despite a two-fight losing streak, both against Ben Henderson — the current lightweight champion.
“No. 1 is Frankie Edgar; he’s the best pound-for-pound fighter we have,” St. Pierre said to the Los Angeles Times. “He lost his fight to Benson Henderson only according to the judges. He was much stronger than Henderson.”
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva gave similar praise to Aldo, saying he would retire if Aldo competed at middleweight. Perhaps St. Pierre and Silva gave the praise because the prospect of a fight with Aldo or Edgar is almost impossible.
Even so, the complement means a lot. Silva and St. Pierre have credibility when they speak and don’t throw those statements around lightly.
A win against Aldo would make Edgar the third UFC fighter to hold a title at two different weight classes. Edgar’s head trainer, Mark Henry, said Edgar is destined for more than a UFC 156 victory and a pound-for-pound title. Henry said Edgar can become the first fighter to win a belt in three different weight classes.
“If Frankie was to go for two belts, three belts, I don’t know how you can deny him. It’s something special,” Henry said. “You don’t see something like that, I mean, nobody’s ever done it and weight wise it could be done.”
The task would be tough, though. Edgar would have to plow through Aldo and UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. And even the former is no guarantee.
Aldo is a high level striker from all aspects. His kicks are devastating — just ask Urijah Faber and Chad Mendez. Aldo’s kicks wore Faber down. He finished Mendez with a knee to the head seconds before the first round ended.
But don’t count out his hands. Aldo has seven finishes with punches.
Cruz is a puzzle. He has an unorthodox striking style that is tough to prepare for. There’s no way to replicate Cruz’s movements in training camp.
The good news for Edgar? He is finally fighting people his own size.
Edgar’s opponents always outweighed him, including Henderson, and it proved to be a factor in his two losses. Edgar might be a better fighter at featherweight and bantamweight than he was at lightweight. That’s a scary proposition.
Henry said he sees the possibility and feels it could be reality.
“(Edgar) is one of the best true pound-for-pound fighters that isn’t afraid to go up in weight classes. He’ll fight anybody anytime. Two weight classes up, one weight class up,” Henry said. “For me, I’d love for him to take a shot, I mean, we definitely have to worry about Jose now, it’s the only thing, that’s our thing right now. But, I think he can be the first guy with three belts.”
Edgar is a great wrestler with great conditioning and take-down defense. He has a speed advantage against every opponent he faces, but his best quality is heart.
Cliche, I know, but with Edgar his heart in the octagon is undeniable. He defeated B.J. Penn — the greatest lightweight of all-time — two times, and survived what seemed like a first-round finish against Gray Maynard twice.
Do you really want to doubt Edgar at this point?
However, Aldo and Edgar both constitute reasonable doubt.
Can Edgar defeat two fighters who seem like generational talents? The simple answer is yes but it’s not likely to happen.
St. Pierre’s endorsement doesn’t help you in the ring.