From Toms River East To UFC Fame: The Rise Of Frankie Edgar

Actor Frankie Edgar during a workout. (Photo provided by Frankie Edgar)

TOMS RIVER – From the wrestling mats of Toms River High School East to the bright lights of the UFC Octagon, Frankie Edgar continues to rise as a well-known household name for more reasons than one.

  The local icon known as the “The Answer” isn’t just throwing punches anymore; he’s throwing history. This summer, the mixed martial arts (MMA) legend will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame’s “Modern Wing,” solidifying his place among the sport’s elite.

  The “Modern Era” category recognizes fighters who turned professional after November 17, 2000, marking the adoption of unified MMA rules. Additionally, inductees must be at least 35 or retired for a year or more. Edgar, who retired in 2022 at 40, perfectly fits the criteria.

  Edgar’s impact however, transcends the confines of the cage. As the co-host of a podcast with Roger Matthews and a starring role in an independent film, Edgar’s proven to be more than just a fighter—he’s a multifaceted talent with a story to tell.

  A 2000 Toms River East graduate, Edgar earned a degree in political science at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, now known as Pennsylvania Western University, Clarion. Ironically, his wrestling career during college ended with a personal disappointment.

“In my senior year of college, when I finished wrestling,” said Edgar. “I missed being All-American and lost in the blood round.”

  “I was kind of devastated and still had some angst to get out,” Edgar continued. “I guess I still wanted to succeed.”

  While Edgar didn’t reach the goals he set for himself, fate intervened the same year. In 2005, a new reality show called “The Ultimate Fighter” debuted, catapulting the UFC into the mainstream.

As Edgar watched the first season unfold, he recognized a familiar face: a contestant who had wrestled for a rival college team. This chance encounter sparked an opportunity not just to compete but to be a part of something bigger – the growing phenomenon of the UFC.

  Edgar said he graduated college on a Thursday and began working as a plumber the following Monday. He’d already returned to the wrestle room a day later to train.

Actor Frankie Edgar in his role as Danny Mack in the locally produced film “The Bastard Sons.” (Photo provided by Frankie Edgar)

  Fueled by a burning desire to compete, Edgar’s first fight took place in a world far removed from the regulated world of professional MMA. It only took a couple of months before Edgar decided to battle within the underground fight scene in the Bronx.

  These weren’t competitions for the faint of heart. They were one-round fights with no weight classes, no doctors, and “essentially no rules,” as Edgar himself describes it. It was a baptism by fire, and Edgar didn’t shy away from the unorthodox methods. He headbutted his opponent, a tactic he called “a good way to get it done.”

  Edgar wasn’t just fighting for the win; he was fighting for a chance. By October 2005, he officially turned pro, securing his second win and first sanctioned victory. He won half a dozen fights across four MMA promotions before joining the UFC in 2007.

Edgar’s UFC Career

Making his UFC debut on February 3, 2007, Edgar upset Tyson Griffin in a “Fight of the Night” performance The first UFC fight set the stage for a string of victories that would propel Edgar towards championship glory. He defeated formidable opponents like Hermes Franca and Sean Sherk, earning a shot at the coveted UFC lightweight title against BJ Penn in 2010.

  “Winning that title was the pinnacle of my career. Once you’re the best in the world, that’s something that lives with you forever,” he added.

  The stakes were high for Edgar when he stepped into the Octagon in Abu Dhabi on April 10, 2010. Not only was he facing then-lightweight champion BJ Penn, who held the record for most consecutive title defenses, but Edgar entered as a massive +620 underdog. This historic fight marking the UFC’s first-ever event in the Middle East.

  In a thrilling five-round battle, he pulled off a stunning upset, winning by unanimous decision and etching his name in history as the most significant championship underdog victor in UFC history (currently ranked 3rd). This remarkable feat earned him a “Best Upset of the Year” nomination at the 2010 ESPY Awards.

  Edgar’s victory at UFC 112 transcended the Octagon. It embodied his resilience, dedication, and ability to overcome personal and professional obstacles. Edgar’s wife, Renee, was eight months pregnant and had accompanied him to the event.

  Authorities initially resisted allowing her to board the plane back home due to her advanced pregnancy. The challenge wound up another victory as the couple returned to New Jersey to welcome their second child.

  When defending his title against Penn in a rematch, he won once again and went on to face another familiar foe, Gray Maynard on January 1, 2011, in Las Vegas. The five round-fight ended in a controversial split draw, regarded one of the best MMA fights ever.

  Edgar wouldn’t let the draw define him. He delivered a dominant performance in their rematch, knocking out Maynard in the fourth round to reclaim his title. The rivalry, however, wasn’t over.

  Over the next nine years, Edgar battled contenders across three weight classes, including shots at lightweight champion Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo for the featherweight title and a championship fight against Max Holloway.

Frankie “The Answer” Edgar will be inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame’s “Modern Wing” (Photo provided by Frankie Edgar)

  His career culminated in 2022 with his retirement, leaving behind an impressive legacy. He holds numerous UFC records, including second-most Fight of the Night bonuses and sixth in total championship fight time. But beyond the statistics, Edgar remains grateful for the many opportunities that came his way.

  “Never as a young kid would I have thought I would have the chance to go to all the places I’ve been,” Edgar shared. “I’ve been to Brazil several times; I fought in the Philippines, Korea, South Korea, Japan, Abu Dhabi, and Russia a bunch of times.”

  His career left Edgar with his share of physical injuries that he attributes to overuse. He can’t count the number of times he broke his nose. He’s had groin and back surgeries and his hip replaced a couple of times – all part of a day’s work.

“I love that the fans enjoyed watching me fight,” said Edgar. “I think they would enjoy seeing me fight with all my heart.”

Beyond the Fight

Retirement doesn’t seem to have slowed down Frankie Edgar one bit. After hanging up his gloves in 2022, the UFC legend has traded punches for punchlines, co-hosting the podcast “Champ and The Tramp” with his longtime friend, “Jersey Shore” star Roger Mathews.

Despite their different backgrounds, Edgar and Mathews offer a unique blend of honesty and wit, tackling complex subjects with refreshing candor and a healthy dose of humor. Their contrasting perspectives create a dynamic listening experience, offering listeners a unique glimpse into their personal lives and unfiltered opinions on the world around them.

One of the highlights of “Champ and The Tramp” is the diverse range of guests the duo welcomes. One such guest, Kevin Interdonato, director of the New Jersey-filmed movie “The Bastard Sons,” unknowingly opened a door for both Edgar and Mathews.

“We had Kevin as a guest about a year before the project happened,” said Edgar. “We wanted him to talk about himself and his military experience. During the podcast, Kevin spoke about the project and upcoming roles for the movie. A couple of weeks later, Kevin asked Roger and me if we wanted to do cameo roles.”

Both Edgar and Mathews agreed to take on the small appearance. However, fate had other plans. When one of the film’s featured actors unexpectedly dropped out, Interdonato offered Edgar a chance to take a more vital role in the production.

This unexpected turn of events saw Edgar step into the shoes of “Danny Mac,” part of a gangster crew seeking revenge after a tragic event. The film, titled “The Bastard Sons,” is available on Amazon Prime.

“This was my first real acting gig,” Edgar shared. “I’ve done a commercial for UFC where I played myself. I was also in Kickboxers, where I played myself – so that’s not really acting.”

Kevin Interdonato (center) joins fellow cast members of his film The Bastard Sons that was shot primarily in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Kevin Interdonato)

“I had to play a character here and found it a blast,” continued Edgar. “I wasn’t an artsy type of kid growing up, so it was foreign to me – but Kevin was super helpful.”

While Edgar’s fighting days are over, his commitment to fitness and community remains unwavering. The UFC legend continues his daily training routine, emphasizing a holistic approach to health and wellness.

But his passion extends beyond personal well-being. Edgar is gearing up to share his knowledge and experience by opening “Frankie Edgar’s Iron Academy” – a martial arts school in Toms River. This exciting venture, scheduled for March or April, will offer training opportunities to aspiring fighters and fitness enthusiasts alike.

  “I work with younger fighters, but I don’t think fights are for everybody,” Edgar said. “I think training in martial arts is 100% for everybody. I think it’s definitely good for the mind and body. “

  “Fighting is something you want to do,” elaborated Edgar. “I don’t think fighting should be a hobby. It’s something you want to take it seriously, and really commit to.”

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at