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Frankie Edgar: The Featherweight Ryan Bader

Frankie Edgar battles Jose Aldo at UFC 156
Photo Courtesy of AP

UFC title shots are far and few between. Just ask Michael Bisping.

Stemming from unsuspecting rises to prominence, divisional feuds, injuries and an unpredictable fan base, fighters who deserve the chance to fight for promotional gold don’t necessarily get it. This rings true for two of the UFC’s most dominant contenders of the past two years, light heavyweight Ryan Bader and featherweight Frankie Edgar.

While Bader’s inability to finish fights and appease the massive hoards of knockout-hungry onlookers remains evident, his five-fight win streak in the shallowest of divisions should be good enough to earn him a shot at champion Daniel Cormier. It’s understandable that former kingpin Jon Jones would get his rematch opposite “DC” before anyone walking this beautiful green planet, but there’s no reason why a guy like Alexander Gustafsson should have leapfrogged Bader at UFC 192

It was simply a product of “The Mauler” commanding greater popularity among fight fights stemming from his bout with Jones in 2013, despite coming into his eventual loss to Cormier after getting knocked out by Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

But as confusing and unfair as Bader’s situation seems, Edgar’s warrants even more head scratching.

The former lightweight champion is easily one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world today. He once held the belt at 155 pounds for nearly two years and has already fought current featherweight champion Jose Aldo back in 2013, losing an ultra-close decision. As a matter of fact, all three of Edgar’s losses over the past seven years (all title fights) could have easily went the New Jersey native’s way.

With a four-fight win streak to call his own, there’s no rationale to be found that supports the UFC’s decision to make Edgar wait for a title shot. Obviously a guy like Conor McGregor can sell more tickets, invoke a battle of microphone skills and offer Aldo a fighting style that he has never seen before, but “The Answer” has done just as much over the past two years. This includes handing Urijah Faber his first non-title fight loss of his lengthy career, retiring the legendary B.J. Penn, submitting a streaking Cub Swanson with four seconds left in the fifth round and battering Brazilian contender Charles Oliveira by landing 81 total strikes in a three-round Fight of the Night performance.

When paired alongside Edgar’s latest accomplishments, McGregor’s victories over Dennis Siver, Dustin Poirier and Diego Brandao don’t seem all that impressive.

Yet, the promotion has shackled Edgar like a gladiator with his arms tied behind his back. In some cases, it makes sense for them to allow Aldo and McGregor to work out their boiling differences prior to anyone else getting a shot at gold. But it should have been Edgar, not McGregor, who was scheduled to fight Aldo at UFC 189. We all know what happened with that, as Aldo pulled out due to injury and Chad Mendes filled in, but the original name on the marquee should have read, “Frankie Edgar.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnqQgQqem2w

Unfortunately, Bader has fallen into the same trap, seeing his title hopes dissipate in light of sexier matchups and flashier fighters. But his track record, which is defined by five-straight decision wins, fails in comparison to the excellence that Edgar has consistently displayed inside of the cage.

At this point, there isn’t much more the 34-year-old can do besides defeating Mendes later this month at The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 Finale. In what can only be considered one of the very best matchups to make at 145 pounds, Edgar will have his final chance to bust through the ceiling that has been purposely placed over his head.

If he escapes victorious and is not granted the winner of Aldo vs. McGregor, then there’s no telling what he may do. Refusal to fight? Move back up to lightweight? Compete for a different promotion? Retirement?

Maybe he’ll seek out Dana White and go after him like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has promised to do.

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