They say money and fame will change a person, but if you know UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, he’s definitely an exception to that rule.
It wasn’t long ago that Edgar was working in his stepfather’s plumbing business. While he may drive a nicer car now or have a nicer home, he’s still very much the same person that friends knew during his days as a wrestler at Clarion University in Pennsylvania.
Edgar’s work ethic and underdog attitude have also earned him the reputation of being MMA’s own “Rocky Balboa.” Someone that wasn’t supposed to succeed, but he always finds a way to win.
It’s something Edgar has learned to embrace.
“I don’t mind. I feel like I’ve been that since day one, so it’s kind of fitting,” Edgar told MMAWeekly Radio about the nickname. “Everyone else may consider me an underdog, but I never consider myself an underdog. I go in there and I fight my hardest all the time. So whether I’m a favorite or not, the same Frankie’s going to show up.”
Edgar’s attitude and work ethic have continued to drive him as he’s defended his lightweight title, and he’s even served as an inspiration to many others.
Fans have messaged Edgar on Twitter and Facebook from all over the world. Edgar has also taken time on two separate occasions to speak to the New York Jets prior to games to help charge the team.
It’s a pretty crazy feeling for the kid from New Jersey to believe that people really look up to him, but it happens all the time.
“I get emails and Twitter messages with people telling me I’m an inspiration, and it’s nice. I’ve got two young kids and I’m trying to inspire them too. I’m not intentionally doing it, I’m just being myself and training hard and just trying to be the best fighter I can. If I’m inspiring people along the way, that’s a plus,” said Edgar.
If the humble, blue collar ethic is what Frankie Edgar is really about, then you know why you’ll never seem him pounding his chest screaming that he’s the best. Sure, he’s a proud champion and happy to have accolades like being ranked as the top lightweight in the entire sport of MMA, but Edgar is the last person that will brag about it.
“I’m never the loudest guy. I was always told the loud guys are the ones you’ve got to watch out for, so I was never the loud guy. I’m going to let my actions speak for me,” Edgar stated.
“I see a lot of guys who do, do that, and they don’t stay on top for as long as they should have. I’m going to be me, whether I have the belt or not, I’m still going to be the same guy.”
Edgar’s boxing coach Mark Henry, who came from a similar background growing up in New Jersey, sees what kind of person the UFC lightweight champion is in real life, in front of the media, in the cage, or in the sparring room.
He’s a determined individual with work ethic that can’t be matched.
“It’s his determination to get better,” Henry commented about what defines Frankie Edgar. “I even explain to him sometimes, I’m pretty rough to deal with as a coach, and things I’ll explain to him it’s like in Major League Baseball you have 50 home runs, you’re phenomenal every year, but after they do it for three or four years, you kind of take it for granted. So when Frankie has a good day people walk in and say ‘holy cow, he’s great!’ but for me I want to get to that next level.
“Okay so you’re hitting 50 home runs, now let’s get the batting average from .290 to .310. We’re just always pushing and Frankie’s pushing just to get better.”
Henry’s goals as a coach match perfectly with Edgar the fighter, and they’ve been able to become a cohesive unit that is very successful. With each fight out, they believe they’ll just keep getting better and better.
“The main thing that we as a team always look for and I look for is hearing Joe Rogan say ‘it’s a better Frankie Edgar out here.’ I love hearing that,” Henry stated. “As a trainer to hear that and then to hear Dana (White) say what he says, it’s like hearing from the President. It just confirms that we did our job.”
The goal to always get better and do better will be the same as Edgar gets ready to face Benson Henderson at UFC 144 in Japan. This is just the latest fighter that’s stepping into the Octagon that’s supposed to be bigger, stronger and hit harder than Edgar.
While technically this may be his fourth consecutive title defense, Edgar is facing Henderson like he’s fighting for the belt for the first time.
Because he knows with a loss, what happened before Feb. 26 in Japan all goes away.
“It’s always nice to get the recognition, but I’m a realist,” said Edgar. “I know it can be taken from me at any moment, so I’ve got to stay on my game and make sure I’m sharp.
“I just want to make sure I’m a better fighter every time out.”