Last weekend, after Frankie Edgar knocked out Gray Maynard to retain his UFC lightweight title, UFC president Dana White declared that the New Jersey fighter had simply become the best boxer in all of MMA.
It’s high praise from the boss at the UFC, who also has a deep history in the sport of boxing.
While Edgar has an entire team of coaches working to get him better for every fight, the man most singularly responsible for the lightweight champion developing those very boxing skills is his striking coach Mark Henry.
A pizza shop owner by day, Henry took over Edgar’s boxing training several years ago, but it wasn’t until he tasted defeat that he got serious about working his hands on a daily basis.
“Everybody thinks it’s this six-year thing, but before Gray (the first fight), we only used to hook up like once a week. After that loss I told Frankie, if I told you I was going to win the states in wrestling only practicing once a week, do you think I’d win? After that Maynard loss, we needed to hook up a lot more. So Frankie’s only been doing serious boxing for like three years,” Henry told MMAWeekly.com.
After hearing White’s comments about Edgar’s boxing, Henry admits he was taken aback because to receive a compliment like that from the head man at the UFC, well that’s just about the highest praise you can receive.
“Anybody saying it means a lot, but somebody like Dana White, I really respect Dana and I know he comes from a boxing background and he loves boxing. He definitely knows the game, he definitely knows the craft so coming from Dana, it’s like coming from the President of the United States,” he stated.
While Henry has been very excited to see Edgar’s improvements in boxing with each and every fight, he points out that right now the UFC’s lightweight champion is barely reaching half of his potential.
Henry believes that as the pair continues to work together, Edgar’s boxing will only get better and better.
“He’s about 55-percent of the way there and I think he’s got another 45-percent of the way to grow,” said Henry. “As soon as I came home, I was looking at the tape for hours till like three in the morning, watching fighters I think he could fight. I’ve been watching a lot of tape on other fighters and him, and I’ve got like three pages on what we could fix. I’m really excited to fix these things and get better.”
Along with his other coaches, like former UFC fighter Ricardo Almeida, Henry is focused on making Edgar an improved fighter every time he steps into the Octagon. Their end goal is to make the newest version of Frankie Edgar supremely ahead of the one you saw in the fight before.
“I want to win first and foremost, but I love hearing Joe Rogan say ‘it’s a better Frankie Edgar than last time,'” said Henry. “When I hear that, I know as a team we’ve done our jobs. I know personally I’ve done my job, and I love hearing him say that. I love hearing the Oct. 8 Frankie Edgar could crush the Jan. 1 Frankie Edgar. That’s what I always love to hear.”
Henry also fully admits he loves hearing Dana White discussing Frankie Edgar as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, because he believes the New Jersey native is exactly that.
It’s long been discussed that Edgar has fought well out of his natural weight class, and most view him as a featherweight fighting at 155 pounds.
Henry actually takes it a step further and says that Edgar is probably a natural bantamweight when you put him side by side with fighters like UFC 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz, which make his accomplishments at lightweight that much more impressive.
“What people don’t realize is that Frankie weighs as much as Dominick Cruz. Dominick Cruz we saw in Philly a couple of weeks before his fight, so he was in shape, he was like 160. Frankie was 158. Frankie’s a small 145-pounder. You’ve got Jose Aldo, he’s probably 170; Tyson Griffin, he’s probably 175; all of these 45er’s, they’re like 10 pounds or more than him,” said Henry.
“So when Dana talks about who the true pound-for-pound is, I don’t think people realize what this kid weighs and when he goes into a fight that is he is like three weight classes less in wrestling and three weight classes less in boxing, which is crazy.”
It all comes down to skill, heart and discipline for Edgar, according to his coach. It’s that very determination of spirit to succeed that Henry believes carries Edgar to the top each and every time.
“I believe he’d find a way to get to Cain Velasquez if he had to,” Henry said about Edgar.
The time in the gym doesn’t stop, however, just because Edgar won. As Henry stated previously, he’s already been in the film room breaking down fight footage and getting ready to put the gloves back on the lightweight champion because there’s always more work to do. Henry might consider giving him a little bit of time off for right now, though.