N.J. fighter taking talent to the big cage

Posted: July 05, 2007

On Saturday night in Sacramento, Calif., Frank Edgar will do it again.

"It" is a mixed-martial-arts fight for Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Edgar, a 5-foot-6, 155-pound former wrestler at Toms River East High School in New Jersey, will put his 6-0 lightweight record on the line in UFC 73: Stacked, the organization's biggest fight card of the summer.

For Edgar, 25, the fight is something totally different. His opponent, Canadian Mark Bocek, is an expert in jujitsu, and Edgar has been practicing that skill for only a year.

"I trained real hard on my jujitsu defense," said Edgar, who is nicknamed "The Answer." "He's going to have a hard time with the new stuff I got from training. I want to win."

The pay-per-view event will begin at 10 p.m. at Arco Arena. For last month's UFC 72, the UFC reported 2.5 million viewers.

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, became popular in the early 1990s and feature a variety of fighting techniques, such as boxing, wrestling, strikes, submissions, and just about any other form of combative arts you can imagine.

Biting, eye-gouging, small-joint manipulation, and genital impact - among other extremely dangerous moves - are not allowed.

UFC fighters compete in a cage similar to some pro-wrestling events. Fight attendance, according to the UFC, is typically 9,000 to 13,000 per card. Most fights are held in California or Nevada.

Edgar, a Toms River native, is a plumber for Annise Mechanical. His father, who owns the company and wrestled in high school, is enthusiastic about his son's UFC career, and Edgar makes time at night and between jobs for training.

His girlfriend thought the fighting "was over after wrestling was over in college," said Edgar, who battled in several unsanctioned fights before joining the organized ranks in 2005. "But I was addicted after a friend of mine shared [MMA] with me. I love the training. . . . It ain't easy, though."

Edgar placed second in a national high school wrestling tournament in 2000, and at Clarion University he was a four-time Division I national qualifier and a 2004 college freestyle all-American while earning a bachelor's degree in political science.

"My wrestling background gave me a good solid start. It made me mentally tough," Edgar said.

Despite his accomplishments in and out of UFC, Edgar is a quiet man. He lets his actions do most of his talking.

"I love fighting," he said. "I just love fighting and love to get W's."

In fact, Edgar said, he has been passed over for fights because he prefers not to do any prefight trash-talking.

"They want you to do some talking, but I just don't get into it," he said. "I want to fight and perform well."

It's not an easy life. Edgar gets $2,000 per fight for three years as long as he is winning. If he loses, he is not guaranteed another fight.

To prepare for Saturday, Edgar sought out jujitsu specialists, and another fighter recommended Balance Studios of Philadelphia, owned and operated by black belts Phil and Ricardo Migliarese.

"Frankie is an ego-free learning machine. That makes for a good fighter," Phil Migliarese said.

Edgar needed them badly.

In UFC 67 in February, he won his fight, but it wasn't easy. He went three five-minute rounds with Tyson Griffin, and, in the last seconds of the last round, Griffin caught Edgar in a crunching knee bar.

With his knee hyperextended and feeling intense pain, Edgar managed to free himself a bit. As he watched the clock tick down, he got off some shots of his own and held on for the victory.

"Man, it was 43 seconds left. I wasn't going to tap" the mat to signal surrender, Edgar said. "He could have taken the leg home. I wanted the win."

As for his future in fighting, Edgar is enthusiastic. After all, he has been through plenty already: That knee bar wasn't even the worst he has endured.

"I got a piece of my ear kicked off once," he said.

Contact staff writer Kéita S. Sullivan at 215-854-4884 or ksullivan@phillynews.com.

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