(This story first appeared in Tuesday’s USA TODAY.)
Former UFC titleholder Frankie Edgar has many goals he’d still like to accomplish before the end of his MMA career.
However, in order to move toward those goals, Edgar (16-4-1 MMA, 10-4-1 UFC) had to accept a third fight with B.J. Penn (16-9-2 MMA, 12-8-2 UFC), another former UFC champion whom “The Answer” has defeated twice in the past.
Rarely does the UFC book a third fight between two athletes when one side took the first two meetings. But when Penn begged UFC President Dana White for another crack at Edgar, it led to a third match.
This time is different, though. Not only will Edgar and Penn meet at 145 pounds instead of lightweight, but they’ll also serve as opposing coaches on Season 19 of “The Ultimate Fighter” before squaring off inside the octagon. The latest season of the long-running reality competition premiers April 19 on Fox Sports 1.
“The whole package made me interested,” Edgar told USA TODAY Sports. “If you look at past coaches, they are big names in the UFC, so I think it was the best next step for me. In order to do that, I had to fight B.J. again.”
Edgar speaks highly of his time taping the show and said he is excited about the new level of exposure the series will bring to his career.
As far as his relationship with Penn, the 32-year-old insists it’s all business and has no quarrels with the former two-division titleholder who asked the UFC for this specific fight.
“He’s a competitor,” Edgar said. “People that are competitive, they always have a reason why they lost. They always think they can win. I get it – but I’m a competitor, too, so I’m ready to close the door on this trilogy and make it 3-0.”
Edgar and Penn will butt heads in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale on July 6. The event will serve as the second half of the UFC’s “International Fight Week” double-header in Las Vegas after UFC 175, which takes place July 5.
“The Prodigy” currently is on a three-fight winless streak with just one victory in his past six UFC appearances. Despite that, Edgar thinks a victory is just as meaningful as when he took the lightweight title from Penn at UFC 112 and defended it in a rematch at UFC 118.
“He’s still got an aura about him,” Edgar said. “He’s a legend and probably one of the best lightweights that has ever fought in MMA. A win over him, if I can make it convincing, does a lot to help me in the title picture.”
That title picture, ultimately, is what’s most important to Edgar. Penn’s name still carries a lot of weight in MMA circles, and Edgar views the fight as a way to push him name to the top in a crowded featherweight division.
“I’m not fighting until July, and we’ll see what happens from there,” Edgar said of the potential for a title shot. “The fight game is funny. It’s not always who deserves the shot, it’s who’s in the best position for it.”
For the latest on The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.