After nearly 20 years of competitive fighting, the former UFC lightweight champion and featherweight championship contender will be walking to the octagon for the final time. On the main card of UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden Arena this Saturday, Edgar (24-10-1 MMA, 18-10-1 UFC) will make his final stand.
He engages in a bantamweight match against Chris Gutierrez since being brutally defeated by Marlon "Chito" Vera at the same location the previous year. Many people thought he should put his gloves up because it was his fifth defeat in his previous seven and his fourth time being stopped. After a year of inactivity, Edgar chose to retire from boxing after one final main card match at the storied New York venue, despite initially seeming eager to continue.
Edgar claims he is finished with MMA and most likely all combat sports. He does, however, leave the door open for a significant opportunity in the world of boxing.
“This is my last UFC fight, MMA fight for sure,” Edgar told at the UFC 281 media day on Wednesday. “I’m most likely, 100 percent, it’s my last fight. But if there’s some boxing, maybe (Manny) Pacquiao wants to do an exhibition – I know he’s doing exhibitions now. I can be open to something crazy like that, but it would really, really have to be a good one.”
The 41-year-old fighter has accomplished a lot during his MMA career. Later in his tenure, he moved down to bantamweight and then featherweight. He was one of the strongest title contenders in both divisions. But his best work was done when he defeated B.J. Penn to win the UFC lightweight title and successfully defended it three times in the early 2010s. The moment when Edgar defeated Penn to win the title at UFC 118 in 2010 is still his favorite one.
“If I had to pick one, it’s winning the title against B.J. Penn. I’ve been in athletics since I was 10 years old, always trying to be the best at that and I don’t think I ever accomplished it until winning the title. That always stands out to me.”
Being the final opponent of former UFC lightweight champion Edgar will provide Gutierrez with a significant opportunity and additional attention, but the 31-year-old claimed that his seven-fight unbeaten streak is what brought him to this point. Gutierrez recently defeated Danaa Batgerel with a bonus-winning spinning back fist TKO.
“No, not really,” Gutierrez said. “I earned my spot here. I came off a really big win back in March, and I stayed in the gym, stayed focused, and I kept my head down and kept working. And I believe life comes full circle, so I earned my shot and when the opportunity came knocking, I was ready.”
Almost every fighter on the card has paid respect to Edgar, whose remarkable career saw him narrowly miss becoming a two-weight world champion, at some point throughout fight week. During an emotional retirement run, Edgar's fights with Grey Maynard and victories over BJ Penn have been brought to mind. However, Gutierrez is determined not to let the situation affect him.
“My job is to go in there and win,” Gutierrez explained. “It’s not bittersweet. He’s had his run. He’s done amazing things for the sport. No, it’s not bittersweet at all - Frankie is a legend in the sport. He’s done amazing things. It’s still Frankie at the end of the day. I’m not going to take anything away from the guy. He’s still a dangerous fighter, and that’s why I’m treating this fight like every other fight.”