Pipe dreams

Frank Edgar's mother, Mary, wasn't crazy about the idea of her son becoming a mixed martial artist.

And Edgar's first bout, a 2005 match in New Jersey against Mark Getto, didn't help assuage her fears one bit.

The one-time All-American wrestler from Clarion University won his professional MMA debut in convincing fashion, scoring a first-round technical knockout. But he was kneed in the face early in the bout, which caused an injury that, at the time, he didn't realize he had sustained.

After the bout, at a celebratory dinner with his family, Edgar went to the restroom and blew his nose. That's when he realized something wasn't right.

Turns out, he had broken an orbital bone and one of his sinus passages. So when he blew his nose, air escaped and began to seep out and collect under the skin.

It wasn't long before he looked like the Elephant Man.

"That's pretty much what it looked like," said Edgar, who will meet Mark Bocek on Saturday at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif., in the opening bout of UFC 73. "It was pretty bizarre looking."

And Edgar, getting a kick out of the fact he could manipulate the air with his fingers, quickly proceeded to make it worse.

In talking to one of his friends who had walked into the restroom, Edgar decided to blow his nose again. Even more air seeped out and made his face appear even more gruesome. He then began to try to expel the air.

Through his eye.

"I thought I could get it out by pushing it with a finger and forcing it out my eye, but it wasn't working," he said. "Just being a stupid kid, I guess."

Edgar, 25, survived that, as he did a few fights later during the third round of a bout with Jim Miller when Miller attempted to kick him in the head. Edgar put his arm up to block it, but Miller connected well enough to knock off the top portion of his ear.

Edgar had cauliflower ears from his wrestling days and he wasn't even aware that it had come off. There was plenty of blood, and the scene was memorialized on videotape.

"It was pretty raunchy," Edgar said laughing.

He made a post-fight trip to the hospital for stitches, but later had to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. That, though, is the life of a fighter. And, despite his position as the first fight on the card on Saturday, Edgar is quickly proving he's among the elite in the lightweight division.

Anyone who doubted his 5-0 record when he came to Las Vegas on Feb. 3 for his UFC debut against the highly regarded Tyson Griffin quickly became believers after Edgar decisioned Griffin in what was the Fight of the Night and could be the Fight of the Year.

Griffin was a solid favorite, but he knew he was in for a long night.

"You never expect an easy fight when you're in the UFC, but when I saw what he was all about, I knew I had a real tough bout," Griffin said last month before his win over Clay Guida at UFC 72 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "It was pretty obvious he had a lot of talent."

During his first year as a pro, Edgar fought in small shows on the Eastern seaboard – promotions with names like Reality Fighting, Ring of Combat and Sportfighting. Even though they didn't have the hype or the big names that mark events like the UFC and Pride, plenty of quality fighters moved through.

UFC president Dana White didn't need to be sold hard on Edgar. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, one of the most astute talent observers in the business, told White he believed Edgar had potential to be very good.

"Joe Silva told me he can fight and when Joe Silva says something like that, then I'm convinced, because he's proven he can find these guys under rocks, I think," White said. "And Edgar went out there and proved it."

He did it in an acrobatic fight which had White and UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta leaping out of their seats and looking at each other with their jaws dropped.

White usually hands out a bonus to the men who compete in the Fight of the Night on each show. After the Griffin-Edgar bout, White knew he'd be writing a check to those two no matter what happened during the remainder of the card.

"I went nuts during that fight because that's the kind of a fight it was," White said. "And if you make me go nuts, there's a good chance everybody watching is going nuts. And those are the kind of guys I like to write checks to.

"One of the reasons I think we're successful is because we demand our guys (to) come to fight and we reward those who do. And those guys went (all) out and you see, we brought them both back pretty quickly."

If he has another fight on Saturday like he did against Griffin, Edgar can put away his tool box and give up his career as a plumber.

Though he has a degree in political science, he's had to hold down a job in his father's plumbing company because, to this point, fighting hasn't paid the bills. But he won a $20,000 bonus for his Fight of the Night effort against Griffin and plans to put on a high-octane show on Saturday against Bocek.

With a rematch against Griffin a possibility as well as a bout against Clay Guida on the horizon, Edgar is hopeful his days of working with wrenches may be nearing an end.

"I was born to be a fighter," Edgar said. "It's what I do. I really wish I could commit to this full-time, because I want to see how far I can take it. I am very fortunate because my dad gives me the time off I need to train, but my goal is to get to a point where I can spend all day every day working on being the best mixed martial artist I can be."