Going into his title fight with Gray Maynard, some still don't think that Frankie Edgar has earned his merit to be the top dog of the UFC's 155-pound division. Sure, he's beat BJ Penn twice, and many applaud him for doing that, but no one sees Edgar as the threat that someone like Anderson Silva is. He doesn't have that aura to him that allows him to strike fear into others just by hearing the sound of his name.
Edgar can turn this around though with his next two fights and it would make the fighter from New Jersey a more household name.
Firstly, he has to go out and beat Maynard, handily. The only blemish on Frankie Edgars' record comes from an April 2 loss in 2008 to Maynard himself. If Frankie Edgar can go out and put the stamp on Maynard, it will avenge that loss and give Edgar his first win via anything else but decision since December of 2009.
Avenging losses is something all great champions have done when they have had to. Take someone like Anderson Silva; it's hard to avenge any losses when you have none inside the UFC (though, he could still fight Yushin Okami). Georges St. Pierre has done it twice, beating both Matt Hughes and Matt Serra in brutal fashion after losing to both of them. Chuck Liddell did it in his prime against Randy Couture and Jeremy Horn and yes, even Brock Lesnar beat Frank Mir in embarrassing fashion in their rematch.
Edgar can make a step to join this group by beating Maynard, as it will ultimately show how he has improved and grown as a fighter.
Finishing fights is another task that is ahead of Edgar that will be challenging. Much like Welterweight Champion, Georges St. Pierre, Edgar is plagued by the fact that he has a tendency to not be in that 'killer' state of attack, and is just as content to get a victory by decision rather then finish fights. Understandably, this doesn't make you the most popular fighter in the minds of fight fans. It also doesn't make you that feared or respected as a champion, even though you've won and defended the belt.
As much as MMA is about the fights and the skill that is involved, the real money-makers of the sport comes from when fights are finished. Fans are all hungry for a brutal knockout or a slick submission, and if it wasn't, then there would be no Knockout of the Night or Submission of the Night bonus.
Defending the title a couple of times is also something that makes a champion great. Nobody can take anything away from Edgar for beating Penn twice in two tries, that's impressive. He needs to go on a run with the title though, and give it some credibility. Recently that has only been done in two divisions inside the UFC (Welterwight and Middleweight), and while the other divisions all have great champions, there are still question marks about them.
Junior Dos Santos has a very real chance to defeat Cain Velasquez, as does Rashad Evans when he fights Shogun Rua.
Edgar has already made the first step and defended his title once, and for him to be respected he's going to have to do it a few more times. Especially against Maynard and then again when the WEC title is unified, against Anthony Pettis. If Edgar wins both of those people will then say, "Who will Edgar beat next?" and "How long will his title run go?" rather then him being questioned if he should even be champion.
It all starts with one fight though, and if Edgar wants to get the respect he deserves from the fans and his peers alike, it all starts with an impressive win over Gray Maynard at UFC 125.