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At UFC 112, Edgar was matched against lightweight champion BJ Penn. After a long, back-and-forth, predominantly standing fight, the judges' scorecards were called on for a decision. The scores were 50–45, 49–46 and 48–47, all for Edgar. The unanimous decision win awarded him the UFC Lightweight Championship.
On June 24, 2010 ESPN announced Edgar as a nominee for Best Upset of the Year at the 2010 ESPY Awards.
The bout at UFC 112 was deemed close enough that Edgar's first title defense took the form of a UFC 118 rematch against Penn on August 28, 2010. Edgar defeated Penn via unanimous decision to retain the UFC Lightweight Championship, this time with no controversy after taking Penn down multiple times and out-striking him throughout all five rounds. All three judges scored the bout 50–45 for Edgar, making him the second fighter to defeat Penn in the lightweight division (the other being Jens Pulver), and the second fighter ever to beat Penn twice (the other being Georges St-Pierre).
Edgar's next title defense was against Gray Maynard, the only man to have defeated Edgar, in a rematch from UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Lauzon. Maynard earned the #1 contender spot at UFC 118 with a win over Kenny Florian. The bout took place on January 1, 2011 at UFC 125, with the fight ending in a draw (judges scorecards: 48–46 Maynard, 48–46 Edgar, 47–47). His fight with Maynard marks the third time in UFC history that a championship fight ended as a draw.
During the UFC 125 post-fight press conference, it was announced that Edgar's next opponent would be Anthony Pettis in a belt unification match. However, less than two hours later UFC president Dana White announced a change of plans. Edgar was then scheduled to fight Gray Maynard for the third time at UFC 130. Dana White confirmed on May 9, 2011 that both Edgar and Maynard had sustained injuries and that their bout was pulled from event. The fight was re-scheduled as the main event of UFC 136. After a similar first round to their bout at UFC 125, Edgar won via KO at 3:54 of round 4, earning Knockout of the Night honors.
Edgar faced Benson Henderson on February 26, 2012 at UFC 144. Henderson defeated Edgar via unanimous decision to become the new UFC Lightweight Champion. The fight earned Fight of the Night honors.
A rematch with Henderson took place on August 11, 2012 at UFC 150. In another close bout which once again was very tightly contested, Henderson defeated Edgar again, this time via split decision.
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