Edgar settles into life of UFC champ, Penn's book makes waves
Frankie Edgar stunned the UFC world with Saturday's victory over B.J. Penn
Penn's book, released Tuesday, hasn't exactly been embraced by the UFC suits
David Weintraub, co-author for the book, was told he could no longer freelance
Calling someone a lightweight in their field isn't necessarily a compliment. But in Frankie Edgar's world, one could scarcely come up with a more appropriate description -- well, besides champion, which works perfectly well now, too.
For Edgar, whom many believed too small to make a significant impact at 155 pounds, Saturday's decision win over B.J. Penn in Abu Dhabi was the validation and vindication needed to make the growing chorus of "Edgar should move to featherweight" voices disappear for a while.
Speaking Tuesday over the phone from his home in Toms River, N.J., Edgar, 28, joked that he "figured the belt would make me a definite lightweight."
Whatever Edgar lacks in size -- compared to others in the division, the new 5-foot-6 UFC champion cuts minimal weight to make the 155-pound limit -- he makes up for with spirit and competitiveness. From the day he began preparing for Penn, the consensus top lightweight in the world heading into Saturday's bout, Edgar said he essentially mythologized the Hawaiian in his mind.
"I knew if I was going to beat him I'd have to build him up to be as good as he was," said Edgar, who improved his record to 12-1, the lone loss coming two years ago by decision to Gray Maynard. "If I expected a lesser B.J., I would have lost. He gave me everything I expected, sure."
Edgar said fighting Penn (15-6-1) was part of a natural progression to his career. Early in his UFC experience there were established names, like Tyson Griffin and Spencer Fisher. Then Hermes Franca, who fought for the UFC lightweight title. Followed by an ex-UFC champion in Sean Sherk. And finally the man, Penn. Even before he entered the UFC in 2007, Edgar met and handled talents such as Jim Miller and Deividas Taurosevicius.
Despite his previous performances, few people actually allowed Edgar, an 8-to-1 underdog on fight night, much of a shot at pulling off an upset against a champion in the midst of three successful UFC title defenses -- stoppages over Sherk, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
"I just think you really can't get caught up in that," Edgar said. "I try to to stay positive. It's the best thing to do. If you start thinking about the stuff people say, it kind of makes you negative."
Edgar's victory -- which didn't come without controversy based on the cage-side view of judge Doug Crosby, who tallied a 50-45 score for the former standout wrestler despite many observers believing Penn, at worst, earned two of five rounds -- was overshadowed in most places save for Toms River, one of the top sporting enclaves in the U.S.
"It's not like the other judges didn't give me the fight at all and he gave me 50-45," Edgar said. "The other judges gave me three rounds. I understand some people disagree with it, but it is what it is."
The new UFC champion returned home Sunday evening to what he described as a "champion's welcome."
Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances led him home, sirens blaring.
"I got off the parkway, pulled over in some parking lot and there was some 250 people waiting for me," he said. "It was a good feeling to walk off the bus with the belt, that's for sure."
The strap, which was too large to fit around his waist in Abu Dhabi, now has a home on the couch in Edgar's living room, and has become a regular prop in photos for his friends.
"I surprised myself a little bit, just for the fact of the focus of it all," Edgar said of his title-winning effort. "In my early competitive years focus was the hardest part for me. But now that I focused for 25 minutes, I think that was the biggest thing."
Though Edgar prefers to defend the title against the unbeaten Maynard so he can have a chance at avenging the lone loss of his career, sources tell SI.com that the UFC is focusing on putting together a rematch with Penn first.
"Champions don't get to choose," Edgar said. "Whatever the UFC wants, I'm down with. B.J. has also earned it being the legend he is."
Penn starts book tour without UFC's blessing
It was intended to be a perfect segue. Retain the UFC lightweight title, fly from the United Arab Emirates to New York and kick off a successful book tour.
B.J. Penn still might move copies of Why I Fight, an autobiography co-authored by 36-year-old freelancer David Weintraub, but he'll have to do so without the endorsement of his promoter, Dana White and the UFC.
White told SI.com that after he became aware of the book, he approached Penn and Penn family lawyer, Gary Levitt, with a question: "Why would you put out a book that is 90 percent not true?"
"I asked him why he would write lies in there and he swore to me that he didn't write it or read it," White said. "So did Gary. If today they are saying they didn't say that, then I feel sorry for them."
Penn declined to speak directly with SI.com, though he could be heard over the phone talking to Weintraub. Penn, who made it clear he hoped to avoid a fight with White, did not back away from the contents of the book.
"Dana is trying to make it seem like I wrote a book about B.J.," said Weintraub from New York, where he joined the recently deposed UFC lightweight champion as hard copies hit shelves Tuesday. "One-hundred-percent false. All the words in that book are the words and thoughts of B.J. Penn. I'm a co-author, my job is to help him put his thoughts to words. He's read the manuscript. The manuscript became the book."
Asked twice to pinpoint inaccuracies in the 31-year-old Hawaiian's tome, which was written after he and Weintraub spent over 100 hours speaking in person or via Skype, White could not.
The UFC president said he was comfortable with Penn's response, and would not seek legal action.
"I'm happy with what he said," White texted. "He is a fighter, not a book writer."
"I never thought for a second that the book would be received by the UFC in a way they wouldn't want to promote it or help B.J. I never thought it would be like that," said Weintraub, who worked with the UFC on video projects and penned articles for UFC magazine before he said he was was let go two weeks ago based upon his participation with the book. "I thought it would be something they read, reflected upon, and looked at how they owned this company. B.J. started at the same time they bought this company."
Weintraub worked for New Jersey-based production group Exit 9 Films, shooting behind-the-scenes material used as bonus features on UFC DVDs and webisodes on UFC.com. Exit 9 Films confirmed Weintraub's employment, but declined to speak about business related to the UFC, which goes back to the days of SEG and Bob Meyrowitz.
Weintraub began working with the UFC in 2004. He met Penn two years later after the Hawaiian mended fences with the UFC following his contentious move to K-1, which occurred in the wake of a stunning victory over Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight title.
That period, which is covered in the book, is one reason the Penn camp believes the UFC took exception to Why I Fight, a HarperCollins publication.
"I'm very happy I wrote the book but I'm also very disappointed the UFC decided to force my employer to cut me loose," said Weintraub, who alleged UFC executive vice president of operations and production Craig Borsari told Exit 9 Films that Weintraub was "no longer welcome to work for the UFC."
"The line was that I should have come to them before I did anything with one of their fighters, even though I'm not an employee of UFC's and I work freelance," he said. "They say that now, even though they were aware that I was writing the book."
White said he was unknowing of Weintraub "or his situation with [Borsari], but that's nobody's business."
"I'm very surprised that a guy as hands on as Dana White would not know that they had cut me loose," Weintraub responded.
Weintraub was at the heart of a controversy last year in the wake of Penn's rematch with Georges St. Pierre, after which the Hawaiian alleged the UFC welterweight champion had inappropriately used Vaseline on his body. Prior to the bout, Penn said Weintraub, in Hawaii working on the book, received a text message from Kenny Florian suggesting that St. Pierre should be watched for "greasing." Florian denied sending a text about St. Pierre.
"The reason why I even took the opportunity to write the book is I think he's a special kid and someone I always got along with," said Weintraub of Penn. "The reason we connected is he's an honest guy. He speaks the truth about how he feels. And I'm the same way. I think we both have the same mentality to write an honest assessment of things."
Penn's book tour takes him to from New York to Henderson, Nev., on Thursday, followed by three stops in California, culminating Monday just south of Los Angeles, in Torrance.
Said Weintraub: "We wrote as accurate a book from B.J.'s perspective as we possibly could relating to mixed martial arts over the last 12 years of his life."
Weintraub said in spite of White's protests, he does not believe the UFC president has read the book. Asked if he read it, White did not respond.
"If he had," Penn's co-author extrapolated, "he would have understood the arc of the book and how B.J. has grown as person from someone who had contentious issues with them early on and how it changed as he matured."