It was in 2012 that former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar decided to drop into the featherweight class. Aside from the weight, little has changed for Edgar since he began routing through opponents after his explosive breakthrough into professional MMA fighting in 2005. Frankie is 34 now—we wanted to know how he stays so primed and in peak physical shape after a decade of fighting. For Edgar, age has not been a limiting factor—the wrestler is heading into The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale against Chad Mendes feeling more jacked up than ever.  

M&F: How do you stay in peak shape at your age? How has that changed over the years?

Frankie Edgar: I don’t think it’s changed too much. I’m not one to take time off. I like to stay in the gym, but I definitely pulled back from sparring all the time in between fights. I spar to help my teammates get ready, I spar a couple of rounds to get fresh but I don’t have to beat my body and head up too much in between fights.  

As far as training during camp, I try to keep things the same. I still try to get the same amount of rounds, because if I could do it when I was 26 then I want to do it now. It means I’ll be ready.  

I pick and choose what I go hard in. You know, as you get older you get wiser, and you know what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I cut the fat as I get older—maybe some things that were just beating me up and not making me better.  

M&F: When you’re outside of the ring what type of resistance training do you prefer?

Frankie Edgar: I do strength and condition. To me, that’s the one thing—you shouldn’t have to worry about getting injured. Some of the things—Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, sparring—there’s a lot of variables where stuff can just go wrong, and actually get you hurt and whatnot.  Strength and conditioning, if you do it the right way, you should be walking out of that practice feeling good, feel like you got work in but you shouldn’t be beat up from it.

M&F: As a featherweight competitor, what kind of rep scheme and intensity are you using?

Frankie Edgar: In between fights, when I have a couple of months before I’m in camp, I like to lift heavy. Lower reps, and higher weight.  

I like to say I kind of strong for my size, because I’m constantly lifting weights. I’ve been coming from a wrestling program in college; we always focused on a strength program in between seasons. I kind of try to do that now, although, we kind of don’t have a season per se, but I have off time that I can bulk and get stronger. As I get closer to my fight, I bring up the reps, and lower the weight.

M&F: What’s one of your favorite strength training movements?

Frankie Edgar: I love lat pulls. To me, that’s so conducive to MMA training. Were always pulling, were always pulling in for chokes and for grappling you’re definitely doing a lot of pulls. That, along with pull-ups are really helpful for getting your man strength up and pulling guys to you.

M&F: How are you eating?

Frankie Edgar: I eat clean. I don’t really cut much weight; I don’t get too heavy in between fights. So I don’t really have to worry about cutting out to crazy. I eat clean and sensible. And then as I get closer—I’m a week away now—I’ll start bringing down the calories, cutting down the carbs and the salts, bring the water out a little bit, and then in the last couple of days I bring the water out and I’m all weight.

M&F: Is this something you’ve always done? Have you ever had a fight where you’ve really had to cut down?

Frankie Edgar: Not really.  Just 4 fights ago I was at lightweight—the class is 155 and I was probably walking around at 160, so I had to cut minimal weight. Now I walk around at 160 [competing] at 145.  So now I use a nutritionist towards the end of my camp just to make sure. I take the guessing game out of it and just follow his regimen.

Never have I struggled to make weight. The things I can control that make my life easier, I make sure I get on top of.  

M&F: Is there any difference in motivation and getting yourself pumped up for a fight from 2005 and this week?

Frankie Edgar: I’m a self-motivating guy. I enjoy what I do. I don’t wake up in the morning saying ‘ugh, man I gotta go to work, or I gotta work out’. To me, I get to do what I love for a living. You know, there’s always the stressfulness when a fight’s looming because you’ve got to perform and you’ve got to make sure you’re working hard, but in between fights its all fun. I’m just worrying about getting better and having fun. That definitely takes the stress out of it.  

M&F: About the fight: your opponent, Chad Mendes thinks it’s just going to come down to heart.  What do you think about that?

Frankie Edgar: I like my chances if it comes down to heart.

I think that’s my best attribute—heart—and that’s not something you can teach. It’s not something you could decide on fight day that ‘I’m going to fight with a lot of heart.’ That’s something you have to do every single day. And I think that’s something I’ve done since day one of my athletic career. I always wrestled with a big heart, and I always fight and compete with a big heart, even in the gym. I want to win everything I do, and I think that’s kind of my niche.  

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