This August 28 in Boston Frankie Edgar will have a second encounter with BJ Penn, from whom he took his UFC lightweight belt the last time they met, in Abu Dhabi. A savvy striker, Penn is also famous for his outstanding Jiu-Jitsu. He was the first non-Brazilian to win the world championship as a black belt. To deal with this facet of his opponent’s game, Edgar relies on the help of Ricardo “Cachorrão” Almeida and Renzo Gracie.
In an interview with our correspondent Nalty Jr, the current champion comments on the place the gentle art holds in his life, a possible matchup with José Aldo and, of course, his upcoming challenge. Check it out:
When did you start your Jiu-Jitsu training?
I started training informally four years ago, when I started training MMA. I practiced basic Jiu-Jitsu for MMA, but I started really training seriously with Cachorrão a little over two years ago.
Do you think about getting your black belt?
For sure. I need to train a bit more in the gi, but I definitely want it. I’m going to keep working towards that happening some day.
What’s the importance of Jiu-Jitsu in your game?
It’s extremely important, for the simple fact that it makes me quicker and it strengthens the different parts of my game, as Jiu-Jitsu is so good that it lets me fix what I’m doing wrong. A complicated position can become an even better one than it was before.
What was it like to beat BJ Penn, when everyone thought it would be an easy fight for him?
I didn’t quite get it when everyone was saying that. He’s an excellent fighter and had been champion for some time. He beat a lot of good guys, destroyed everyone in the division… But to me none of that mattered, I always believed in myself, in my techniques, and I knew I had what it takes to win.
What’s the secret to beating a champion like BJ?
To me it was just carrying out my game. To beat him you can’t get sucked into his game.
Will you change your strategy or anything in training for the next fight?
I definitely have to train hard, but I also have to train smart. I’m going to watch the fight and see where I made mistakes and where he made mistakes and adapt my training to that. I feel it’s really important to improve from one fight to the next. If I’m better in the next fight, I’ll have done my job and put to practice what I did in training.
You took BJ down, which no one had ever done before. Do you feel the combination of Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling makes the difference in MMA?
It’s a great combination. I feel one completes the other. I, personally, improve in both with every day, both in Jiu-Jitsu and in wrestling, and the more comfortable I get with that, I get smoother in the transition between the two or when I use the two together. I feel my wrestling has improved because of Jiu-Jitsu.
José Aldo would be a great challenge” Frankie Edgar
The main theory behind Jiu-Jitsu is that size doesn’t matter. Against BJ, everyone was saying he had the size advantage. What do you think of that?
The truth is that people were saying a lot of things before the fight and throughout my career. The question of size was one of them. But I always knew size didn’t mean anything and I always believed in me. I don’t even pay attention to that talk.
What do you expect in your next outing with BJ Penn?
I expect a tough fight, an even tougher BJ. I’m training hard to be sure next time I’ll have an even better performance than the last time we fought.
And what would you think of facing José Aldo, the WEC featherweight champion?
A lot of people ask me that. I want to be champion of the lightweight division for a long time, but it would surely be a great fight for the fans. José Aldo is a phenomenal fighter. He’s an Anderson Silva at 66kg, it would be a great challenge for me.