Frankie Edgar calls his UFC 200 opportunity to capture the interim featherweight belt in a rematch against former longtime champion Jose Aldo his “second-best option.”
Edgar wanted to fight featherweight champion Conor McGregor of Ireland in a title bout that could have served as the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s marquee event at the new T-Mobile Arena on July 9 in Las Vegas.
McGregor, however, opted to take a second crack at fighting Stockton’s Nate Diaz in a welterweight (170 pounds) fight that follows Diaz’s second-round submission victory at UFC 196 on March 5 at MGM Grand.
The interim designation means McGregor has to fight the Edgar-Aldo winner next, or the winner becomes the actual champion.
“I still want to fight for the real title, and I feel if I get this, I can’t be denied the next time out,” Edgar told The Times on Thursday in a telephone interview, one day after the UFC announced much of the July 9 card to television partner Fox Sports 1.
Edgar stopped short of claiming McGregor is ducking him, acknowledging that he understands why the popular Irishman is seeking to avenge a loss that left him humbled.
“I get that he wants the revenge,” Edgar said. “It doesn’t make sense for common fans to follow along. I think they wonder, ‘Why are you going back [to 170 pounds] instead of the title shot?’ He’s also a smart guy. He knows the longer he can keep that 145-pound belt, the better. But eventually, he’s going to have to give it up.”
Not making the main event of UFC 200 a title fight “kind of takes away the value of the belt,” Edgar said. McGregor has cracked in the past that the “McGregor belt” is the most important fight in the UFC.
“I don’t know if that’s Conor’s ego, or he wants a built-in excuse. That was his first excuse after the fight: ‘He’s the bigger guy; I’m carrying this weight.’ He can’t carry that crutch next time around,” Edgar said.
The 34-year-old Edgar (19-4-1) has won five consecutive fights since losing to Aldo (25-2) by unanimous decision on Feb. 2, 2013. Meanwhile, Aldo was knocked out in 13 seconds by McGregor in December to surrender his belt. That’s been his only fight since October 2013.
“Aldo is the best 145-pounder the UFC has ever seen,” Edgar said. “I lost a close fight to him that I thought I won, and now I get a re-do and make sure it goes my way. I just felt the momentum was with me [winning late rounds]. I out-struck him, took him down three times. But he was the champion.
“The timing is what I like the most. I feel I’m the best I’ve ever been. I’m on a hot streak. He has a lot to prove. I know what’s on the line, but I’m not the one trying to bounce back from a vicious knockout.”
Edgar said he hasn’t been told whether his fight will be the co-main event, or if the UFC will squeeze in a full title fight. He said he wasn’t promised extra money to fight Aldo after being promised McGregor if he beat Chad Mendes in December, as he did by first-round knockout.
Only two others — Randy Couture and B.J. Penn — have captured UFC belts in two divisions.
“It’s business, I guess, and business sometimes is a dirty world,” Edgar said. “I’m frustrated, but I’m not going to be a baby about it. … I’m fighting the next fight on my contract. Now, I get my chance to fight for a made-up belt to guarantee I’m the No. 1 contender, and Conor has no choice to defend or let go of it. … And if he does, I’ll chase him up to 170.”