Since the later days of the WEC and the inception of the UFC’s featherweight division, Jose Aldo has been king of the 145-pound fighters. A knockout victory over Mike Brown in late 2009 kicked off one of the most dominant stretches in UFC/WEC history. Nearly five years later, the champion remains the same. From WEC staples like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas to perennial UFC contender Kenny Florian, the past few years have seen eight different men challenge for Aldo’s belt. They’ve all been turned away rather convincingly. Well, all except one.

No one has come closer to dethroning Aldo than Frankie Edgar. Their five-round fight a year and a half ago was by far the most competitive of Aldo’s current run, and although the champion won the fight, Edgar gave him his biggest challenge thus far by coming on strong in the final two rounds. Most fans and media agree that Aldo was the superior fighter on that night, but the fight was extremely close.

It was assumed that a fighter with Edgar’s championship resume would quickly get himself back into the title hunt. A win on July 6, 2013, over Charles Oliveira put Edgar on the road back to the title, but then, to kick off 2014, there was the filming of The Ultimate Fighter, for which Edgar served as a coach. That meant it was a year to the day before “The Answer” was able to get back inside the cage. A layoff of that length is incredibly rare for a fighter as active as Edgar has been over the course of his UFC career.

After steamrolling what was left of fellow TUF 19 coach and UFC legend B.J. Penn at the TUF 19 Finale last weekend, it’s pretty clear that Edgar isn’t looking to waste anymore time getting himself back into the title picture.

Sadly, the featherweight title scene is a mess right now. Aldo was supposed to defend his title against Mendes, the current top contender, early next month, but an injury to Aldo has postponed that fight indefinitely. Cub Swanson has done more than enough to earn a title shot, but he’s fought about as often as Edgar over the past year and would more than likely want to jump back inside the Octagon instead of possibly waiting on the injury-prone champion to get healthy for two straight fights. Chan Sung Jung and Lamas are still hovering around the top five in the rankings, but both fighters were taken out by Aldo less than a year ago and likely need both wins and time for the public to forget their recent thrashing before becoming serious threats in the title scene again. Simply put, Aldo has a field full of contenders he’s already beaten waiting to fight him again, but the champion can’t stay healthy for long enough to start making his way through the list again.

As Aldo attempts to get healthy and back into the cage, Edgar is going to need to start taking out contenders left and right if he wants to get back into the mix. Although he’s only 32 years old, the New Jersey native has taken a lot of punishment over the course of his career. It’s only a matter of time before the punches that Edgar had been able to walk through in his younger days start to become an issue. After all, while Edgar is without a doubt one of the toughest fighters to ever step foot in the Octagon, his most impressive attribute in that regard is his ability to get badly hurt on the feet and find a way to stay in the fight. We saw him take the beating of a lifetime in two consecutive bouts with Gray Maynard and come back stronger and stronger as the fight went on, but eventually Edgar’s going to get hit and he’s going to stay down. The older he gets, the more likely that is to happen, so getting back into the cage for a title fight within the next year or two may be imperative if he ever wants another UFC title wrapped around his waist.

All Edgar has talked about since losing the UFC lightweight belt a few years ago has been getting his hands on UFC gold again, but wins over Oliveira and the ghost of Penn aren’t going to be quite enough to get Edgar back into the cage with Aldo. “The Answer” needs an opponent with some name value. He needs someone that will get the fans talking, which leaves Edgar without many legitimate options.

Guys like Lamas and “The Korean Zombie” are incredibly talented, but they don’t have a ton of weight with the fans quite yet. Furthermore, their recent title losses have pushed them down the ladder, likely a rung or two below Edgar. Conor McGregor is the hottest rising star in the promotion right now, but even if the budding Irish superstar pulls off a spectacular win over Diego Brandao later this month it’s going to be hard to pull the trigger on jumping McGregor from competing against a borderline top-10 fighter to fighting the No. 3 featherweight in the world after just two fights in the UFC.

Among the current featherweight roster, Edgar’s best and, really, only option that makes sense is Swanson. However, the resurgent WEC veteran has said he’s likely going to wait for a title opportunity to open up. Edgar can’t afford to sit around and wait while the rest of the top guys jockey for position, so the UFC may have to get creative with it’s matchmaking.

The one fighter that makes a ton of sense for Edgar right now is Faber, a former WEC featherweight champion. Also coming off of an impressive win this weekend, “The California Kid” has spent the last several years competing at bantamweight. But as Faber starts to get older, the already difficult cut down to 135 pounds is only going to get harder. Throw in Faber’s friendship with current 135-pound kingpin T.J. Dillashaw, not to mention the fact that Faber is 0-3 in UFC bantamweight title fights, and it’s hard to think of a reason for the Team Alpha Male captain to continue fighting at 135 pounds. A move back up to featherweight will give Faber a plethora of new match-ups and opportunities, starting with a huge fight against Edgar.

Swanson or Faber may make the most sense, but no matter who it is that steps into the cage opposite Edgar next, it’s going to be a must-win situation for “The Answer.” The multiple title losses over the years have added a few blemishes to Edgar’s once impeccable resume, and even though a single loss without gold on the line is unlikely to cause the UFC brass to lose confidence in Edgar, it’s going to send him tumbling back down the featherweight rankings far enough that another title shot is going to be hard to come by, especially with the frequent Aldo injuries over the last few years.

Edgar is still very much in his prime and remains one of the best fighters in the world, but the clock is starting to tick on Edgar’s chance to earn another UFC belt. All it’s going to take is a loss at the wrong time for that clock to strike midnight.

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.