Dana White had decided to skip the UFC 125 post-fight news conference to head to a birthday party. He was just beginning to enjoy the revelry when his telephone rang. The caller was UFC vice president Craig Borsari, who had stayed behind at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to run the news conference.
Prior to going to the party, White had told Borsari that despite a draw that night in what was a spectacular lightweight title fight between champion Frankie Edgar and No. 1 contender Gray Maynard, the next shot at the crown would go to Anthony Pettis.
Borsari dutifully made the announcement to the media, but the news greatly upset the quiet and normally stoic Maynard, a guy who had made a career out of fighting the toughest opponents he could find.
"Craig called me and told me how upset and disappointed and angry and frustrated that Gray was," White said. "Pettis had earned the shot, but when I thought about it, so did Maynard. So I changed my mind and gave Maynard the chance."
On Saturday, in the main event of a loaded UFC 136 card at the Toyota Center in Houston, Maynard will finally get that well-deserved second shot at the championship.
Their first title bout remains among the leading contenders for the 2011 Fight of the Year, but that is of little solace to Maynard, who still has a hard time accepting the fact that he didn't do enough to win on January 1.
"We put our lives into this," the low-key Maynard said. "At least I do. I put everything into going after that belt, and I didn't get it. It hurts. There is no good feeling coming out of that. I put everything I had into that training camp and into that fight, because I wanted to win the belt. No matter what happened in the fight, no matter what me or you or anyone else thinks, I didn't get the belt. That hurts."
His words trail off, the disappointment in his voice obvious. There is no consolation in being 1-0-1 against the champion, no consolation in having beaten men ranked Nos. 2, 6 and 9 in the MMA Weekly lightweight rankings or the man ranked seventh in its featherweight rankings.
None of it matters. Only one thing matters, and after 40 minutes inside a cage with Edgar, he may need to go another 25 minutes in order to be able to wrap that belt around his waist.
"It's about winning the fight AND getting the belt," Maynard said.
There are a lot of people in the fight business who cling to the incorrect notion that in order for the challenger to win the title, he has to "take it" from the champion. Essentially, those with that point of view are saying that the challenger needs to win in obvious fashion. Edgar-Maynard II at UFC 125 should have forever put an end to that foolish notion. The champion retains the belt with a draw and that is the huge advantage he brings into a bout.
"Gray's pissed, because he got a draw, not a win, and Frankie's walking around with that belt these last nine, 10 months," White said.
Maynard handed Edgar his only career loss on April 2, 2008, at UFC Fight Night 13 in Broomfield, Colo., using his takedowns to win a three-round unanimous decision.
After one round of the rematch, it looked like Edgar was on his way to loss No. 2. Maynard knocked him down three times and took him down twice in what was about as decisive of a round as possible.
"He caught me with some good shots and he capitalized," Edgar said. "It didn't look good there for a while."
Edgar managed to fight his way back to keep the belt, though, earning a split draw. Remarkably, despite the beating he took in the first round, he recovered enough between rounds to win the second on all three judges' cards. He was nearly finished and no one would have complained had referee Yves Lavigne stopped the bout in the first round and given the win, and the championship, to Maynard.
But Edgar, who is no bigger than most featherweights, refused to concede. That bit of determination and doggedness allowed him to keep the belt when it seemed hopelessly lost.
"There's a reason why these fights are five rounds," Edgar said. "Yeah, he won the first round big, no question about it. But it was one round. That's all it was. One round. I'm not a quitter and until they tell me it's over and I have no chance to keep fighting, I'm going to keep fighting."
The result essentially hinged on how the third and the fifth rounds were scored. All three judges – Marcos Rosales, Glenn Trowbridge and Patricia Morse-Jarman – scored the first round 10-8 for Maynard and the second and the fourth each 10-9 for Edgar.
But in the third, Rosales and Morse-Jarman had it 10-9 for Edgar, while Trowbridge had it 10-9 for Maynard. In the fifth, Rosales had it 10-9 for Edgar, but Trowbridge and Morse-Jarman each had it 10-9 for Maynard. As a result, they each had a different final score. Morse-Jarman had it 47-47. Rosales had it 48-46 for Edgar and Trowbridge had it 48-46 for Maynard.
Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, said he has no problem with the decision in the fight, or the scoring of the first round.
"I get asked that question a lot and if you think about it, in a fight like they had, a lot happens in a five-minute round," Kizer said. "A lot of stuff happens. Maynard had a great onslaught where he hurt Edgar and had him in trouble, but that was a small part of the round. It's been a while since I've seen the fight, and I can't remember exactly when it was in the round when [Edgar] got rocked, but it was toward the latter part of the round.
"That was a vicious minute or so when he was hurt and Gray was on him and after him, but it was only a part of the round, maybe something like 25 percent. I think a 10-8 is the right score for that round."
So on Saturday, two men who have consistently fought the best opposition possible will walk to the cage once more and duel for the right to be the champion of perhaps the deepest division in UFC history.
They're the top men in a loaded class that includes the likes of Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, as well as contenders like Melvin Guillard, Ben Henderson, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, Nathan Diaz and Dennis Siver, among many others.
Despite the fact that they're the best in the UFC's best class, many questions remain. Edgar is still asked about dropping to featherweight despite holding the lightweight belt. Maynard is frequently questioned about his failure to finish.
"This division is not just stacked, it's super stacked," Edgar said. "You have so much depth, and if you put the top 15 guys together, the fights could go either way. There are no easy nights if you're a lightweight these days."
Edgar knows he won't have an easy night on Saturday, no matter what happens. Maynard is freakishly strong for his size, but has a determination that matches his strength and power.
He dominated Kenny Florian in a No. 1 contender's match at UFC 118 and then did everything but put the champion into the hospital in the first round of his title fight earlier this year.
"I know how many guys are out there and I know they're working as hard as they can to work their way up and to, hopefully, one day win that belt," Maynard said. "That's what keeps me hungry. I want that belt. I felt I did enough to have gotten it already, but no, so I'm like, 'Hey, let's do it again. Why not?' "
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