Frankie Edgar can recall when he was Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion, asking his bosses if he could fight to win a second belt at featherweight.
“They wouldn’t allow me to do that,” Edgar said Friday.
The rules are different now for Conor McGregor, the newly crowned featherweight champion who, according to reports, will have the opportunity to become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold two belts when he fights lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 197 on March 5 in Las Vegas.
UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White told The Times late Thursday night in text messages that contracts have not been signed for the bout, but the expectation is that the card will also include the women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Holly Holm and former title challenger Miesha Tate.
McGregor’s ability to pursue double-belt standing -- only B.J. Penn and Randy Couture have previously won belts in two divisions -- is certainly connected to his drawing power.
The $7.2-million live gate he drew for July's UFC 189 was surpassed by his $10.1 million gate at UFC 194 on Dec. 12, when McGregor ended then-champion Jose Aldo’s 10-year unbeaten streak with a knockout in 13 seconds.
“When you have that power he has -- he brings in money for them -- you can dictate a little more than others,” Edgar said. “Money talks. And when you bring in the money, I guess you can have more of a say.”
The 34-year-old Edgar (19-4-1) wants to see what kind of say he has as the second-ranked featherweight. He said he’ll board a Tuesday flight from New Jersey to Las Vegas to meet with Fertitta and White.
“I honestly don’t really know what I’m going to do yet,” Edgar told The Times in a Friday telephone conversation. “I’ve got to weigh some things out. Do I want to wait for Conor -- could something happen? Someone get injured? Do I want to wait for that fight or fight and make some money? That’s what I’m weighing right now.”
Edgar has won five consecutive bouts, including a first-round knockout of UFC 189 interim title fighter Chad Mendes on Dec. 11.
He understands the peril of risking a fight before a McGregor bout.
“But for the last three years, I’ve been trying to situate all my fights to lead toward a title and it seems like it’s not really working for me,” he said. “I’ve missed out on fighting more often, making some money and that’s something … I don’t want to be sitting here until June or July expecting to fight Conor and then something else happens like it has in the past, and then I’m left with another scenario of no-fight, no-money. That’s something I have to consider.”
McGregor has told the UFC he’d like to fight four times this year, and a match against Edgar could find its way to UFC 200 on July 9, which is also expected to feature the Holm-Ronda Rousey rematch at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The UFC doesn’t typically grant stay-busy fights, so Edgar would probably be pitted in a difficult test if he were to fight before he faced McGregor.
“I don’t know if they’re trying to get me out of the picture or what, but I’m hanging in there,” Edgar said. “Before I even think about who I want to fight, I have to think about what I want to do -- if I’m even going to take a fight or not. I’m on the fence.”
In the meantime, Edgar finds himself in the unwanted position of analyzing McGregor-Dos Anjos.
“It’s not an easy matchup for McGregor,” he said. “Dos Anjos brings a lot of pressure. He’s a bigger guy, has world-class jiujitsu. His wrestling is phenomenal as of late, and he has power in his hands and kicks. I definitely lean toward him, but I thought Aldo would’ve done a lot better, too, so you never know in this game.
“Conor feels himself, believes in himself, and that’s what we’re supposed to do as fighters. He has a reason to do so.”
Still, Edgar believes he’s the man to beat the charismatic Irishman.
“I’m not like anybody he’s fought,” Edgar said. “I don’t stay stationary. I can get him with takedowns … I have a good tank and a lot of volume. It’ll be tough on Conor. I’m going to keep him guessing.”
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