Frankie Edgar is the Greatest UFC Lightweight Champion of All Time
As Frankie Edgar gets ready to defend his belt for the fourth time, a feat which would set a new UFC record for successful defenses of the lightweight title, it has led to speculation about where another win would put him relative to BJ Penn as the GOAT of the UFC’s lightweight division. How many more wins does the current champ need to pass “The Prodigy” on the all-time leaderboard?
None, as far as I’m concerned.
So many articles have been written about how underrated Edgar and his accomplishments are in the past year that you’d think it couldn’t possibly still be the case. After all, there’s only so many times you can be called underrated before it starts to seem like everyone agrees you’re pretty damn good. I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler fan with an undying man-love for Hines Ward, but even I have to admit that there came a point when all the “most underrated wide receiver in football” talk was laughable. And yet, in the MMA community on the whole, it doesn’t take much reading around to find many people once again willing to discredit the champion and his accomplishments despite all the experts falling over themselves to point out people really ought to stop doing it. What many point to in continuing to crown Penn as the best there’s ever been is the dominance with which he battered all of his opponents. Well, all of his opponents until Edgar, at least. Unfortunately for those pointing to that argument, not all opponents are created equal. For example, I have it on good authority that the guy Edgar beat to win the title, and the guy he beat in his first title defense, would beat the pants off of anyone that Penn fought for the title. Call it a hunch.
Simply put, Edgar has faced a substantially higher level of competition in his title fights than Penn. Put Gray Maynard in the cage with Penn and he is likely to, at worst, fare better than any of Penn’s three defense opponents did. Put Edgar in there with Stevenson and even the most ardent Penn-backer would have to admit that a one-sided fight is in store for “Joe Daddy.” Similarly, Sanchez and Florian face a very similar problem in Edgar that Penn posed — an opponent with the grappling to keep things standing, and the striking to pick them apart. When Edgar faced Sean Sherk, he dominated from bell to bell when they fought.
When you get right down to the brass tacks of it, here’s how their records as UFC lightweights stack up against each other:
Penn is 10-3-1, with a 4-3 record in title fights. He got half his wins in the early days of the sport when the level of competition was not as high. One of the three losses is avenged.
Edgar is 9-1-1. with a 3-0-1 record in title fights. He also has a win over the man responsible for the only loss and only draw on that record and fought in a time when the level of competition was higher. For the kicker, he holds a 2-0 record over Penn.
Now, has Edgar accomplished more than Penn in the sport? No. On the great theoretical totem pole of MMA accomplishments, Penn has a higher rung (for now) thanks to his work outside the UFC and most of all to his successful challenge for the UFC welterweight title. But none of that has any bearing on who the best UFC lightweight to date is. Take the names off, and as a result lose the resulting influence of accomplishments outside the UFC’s lightweight division. Just look at the records from an unbiased perspective and it’s hard to see how Edgar is not already the owner of the best record in UFC lightweight history.