LAS VEGAS – Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White failed to attend the post-fight news conference Saturday at the MGM Grand after a sensational lightweight title bout between Frankie Edgar and No. 1 contender Gray Maynard ended in a draw.
White had UFC vice president Craig Borsari stand in for him and announce that World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion Anthony Pettis would get the next shot at Edgar's championship. When Borsari made the announcement, Maynard, sitting a few feet to his left, visibly sagged.
It wasn't a good start to the New Year for Maynard, who may be haunted for a long time by his failure to stop Edgar in the first round when he knocked him down three times with punches and took him to the mat two other times.
White, though, changed his mind. In a telephone call to Yahoo! Sports late Saturday, he said Maynard would indeed get the next shot at Edgar's belt when both are healthy enough to fight again.
"I hate to talk about what we're going to do with future fights at a press conference when a card has just ended," said White, who personally scored the bout a draw. "I had the whole Pettis thing with the belt on my mind and so I said, 'Yeah, Pettis gets the next shot.' But then when I thought about it more, how can I in good conscience not give that shot to Gray Maynard? It's a no-brainer. He came in there and he fought his ass off and he deserves that rematch. That was a great fight and they deserve to do it again."
All three judges scored the first round 10-8 for Maynard. But Marcos Rosales gave the final four rounds to Edgar and had it 48-46 for the champion. Patricia Morse-Jarman scored it 47-47, giving Rounds 2, 3 and 4 to Edgar and giving the fifth to Maynard. Glenn Trowbridge scored it 48-46 for Maynard, giving the challenger the odd rounds and Edgar the even rounds.
The crowd of 12,688 didn't like the call and neither did either fighter.
"It obviously doesn't feel good," Maynard said softly. "I thought it was my fight. I thought I had the belt. I worked my ass off for this. I don't know. I guess it kind of hurts."
It felt no better for Edgar, who came out in the second round remarkably composed for a guy who was battered so badly in the first that there were many who felt referee Yves Lavigne should have stopped it.
Edgar was bleeding from the nose and mouth and several times staggered around the cage like a drunken man on his way home from a New Year's Eve party in that epic first round. But Edgar hardly seemed worse for the wear in the second and he fought Maynard on better-than-even terms the rest of the way.
Edgar has been battling for respect despite entering the bout with the title and a 13-1 record, which included back-to-back championship match wins over the legendary B.J. Penn.
Maynard knocked Edgar down three times and took him down twice in a stunningly one-sided first round that was reminiscent of the performance Cain Velasquez gave in October in lifting the heavyweight title from Brock Lesnar.
"I got hit with a big shot," Edgar said of the Maynard left hook that sent him tumbling backward. "He came out strong; did a good job. I bounced back and I felt I won the last four rounds. "
Maynard went so hard in the first round trying for the finish that he didn't have much energy in the second. Maynard’s coach Gil Martinez said he was surprised Lavigne let the fight continue, though, he wasn't criticizing the referee.
But he noted that Phil Baroni was given considerably less leeway when he was stopped in the first round of a middleweight fight with Brad Tavares earlier in the card.
"I've seen a lot of other fights stopped for a lot less than that," Martinez said. "It should have been stopped in the first round. Frankie had no answers for anything that Gray was hitting him with. Phil Baroni got stopped and he was only hit, what, four or five times? Gray landed a good 50, 60 punches in that round, maybe more.
"After the first round, it was like running a sprint and then me coming up and asking him to run a mile. He punched himself out and so the second round, he kind of took it off. Then again, the third and the fifth, we thought we had those rounds."
Edgar's boxing was far sharper than Maynard's after the first, as he used ring movement and a sharp right hand to fight his way back into the bout.
White was incredulous, as were many in attendance, that Edgar was able to survive the first, let alone continue. And when he seemingly turned it around 180 degrees in the second, White's respect for Edgar only increased.
"Why people doubt this kid I'll never understand," White said. "I think he'll get more respect for what he did tonight, surviving that first round, than he did for two wins over B.J. The size difference between them is amazing and Gray couldn't take him down (after the first). The kid is a tough, tough kid and he deserves a lot more respect than he gets."
They both do, and White showed it to Maynard, as well, by giving him the rematch. For a fight that fans were complaining about and few supposedly wanted to see, the third one in the series is going to be huge.