So now we know the new formula for securing a title shot in the UFC: Lose two straight championship fights in your weight class, then move to another division and, Voila!
That was the path cleared a week ago for Chael Sonnen, who less than two months removed from a TKO loss in his second challenge of middleweight champion Anderson Silva was offered a shot at light heavyweight belt holder Jon Jones. (That fight fell through, of course, as did all of UFC 151 amid a fiery scenario we’ve already beaten to death and will not rehash here.)
Now that same yellow brick road is being paved for Frankie Edgar.
The former lightweight champion, who just three weeks ago lost a tight, much-debated decision in his attempt to regain the belt from Benson Henderson, will drop down to featherweight to challenge José Aldo on Oct. 13 at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro. Aldo was scheduled to face Erik Koch, but USA Today reported late Thursday that Koch suffered an undisclosed injury in training and was a no-go.
No doubt UFC president Dana White breathed a sigh of relief when his champion gave the OK to a change of opponent this time. To be fair, Aldo has a full six weeks to prepare for Edgar, while Jones was being asked to step in with Sonnen on essentially three days of training.
That’s not the only reason this featherweight fight has more appeal and way more credibility than the late-replacement title bout Dana & Co. tried to foist upon us last week. Unlike Sonnen, Edgar has been a champion. Unlike Sonnen, Edgar is ranked in most every pound-for-pound Top 10 you’ll find. And perhaps most important from a competitive angle, while Sonnen would have been stepping up to a division 20 pounds heavier and therefore taking on a bigger, stronger athlete, Edgar will be moving down 10 pounds. He’s always been a small lightweight, anyway, fighting close to his walk-around weight and using quickness to deal with being outmuscled. Now Frankie will be basically picking on someone his own size.
Aldo vs. Edgar might not be a “superfight,” a designation that should be reserved for a meeting of two reigning champions. But it has the makings of a super fight … and a super opportunity — for Aldo, who can use a high-profile challenge like this to launch himself into the MMA stratosphere, and especially for Edgar, who after two straight losses to Henderson appeared to be out of opportunities at lightweight.
Frankie acknowledged as much when he took to Twitter after midnight and wrote, “Thanks to all of the UFC fans for all of the support. And thank you @danawhite & [UFC co-owner/CEO] @lorenzofertitta for the opportunity.” Then, in the morning, Frankie tweeted out the fight announcement and added this hashtag: #herewego.
Here we go, indeed.