It was loud and clear. BJ Penn danced through the crowd, headed for the cage for perhaps the final time, and heard the roars. It was obvious he was the favorite.
Only this time, he was a big underdog. Penn, one of the brightest stars in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, always has been a fan favorite. The next time he backs down from a challenge will be the first.
But his third loss to Frankie Edgar probably spells the end for Penn, who spent most of Sunday night on his back while taking elbows, kicks and punches thrown with bad intentions.
All of the fireworks in “The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale” main event at Mandalay Bay Events Center were set off by Edgar, a minus-400 favorite who won by a bloody TKO in the third round.
“I said I wanted to finish him,” said Edgar, who was mightier than Penn from start to finish.
Penn, at plus-300, never showed one sign of a live ‘dog. Every great athlete is eventually forced to give in to the challenge of retirement, and Edgar’s fists told Penn that now is the time.
UFC president Dana White said he would insist Penn retire if he lost, and although a fighter’s retirement speech is typically as trustworthy as a politician’s promise, Penn sounded convinced he’s done.
“Dana said it was over, and I’ve got to agree with him at this point,” Penn said. “I shouldn’t have come back. I shouldn’t have been in the ring.”
Penn, 35, fighting for the first time since December 2012, is 1-5-1 in his past seven fights. Two of the losses were to Edgar, both by unanimous decision in 2010.
One of two fighters to ever hold a UFC championship belt in two weight classes, Penn cut to 145 pounds and claimed to be rejuvenated. Too many bettors took the bait and wanted to believe in the dream.
“We took a lot of public money on Penn,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “When we host the fights, we have a lot of people taking a shot on the ‘dog.”
In this case, Edgar was taking his shots at the ‘dog. Edgar easily won the first round, which Penn spent mostly on his back. Ninety seconds into the second round, Edgar took him down again. Penn’s left eye was swollen by the middle of the third round, when Edgar dropped him for the last time.
Penn is headed home to the beaches of Hawaii and then to the UFC Hall of Fame. The sport’s present and future were on display the previous night in UFC 175.
Favorites swept the board in the featured fights Saturday, with Chris Weidman, Ronda Rousey, Urijah Faber and Uriah Hall prevailing and dealing the books a minor setback.
“Large parlay money was flowing through Weidman, Rousey, Faber and Hall,” Rood said. “People parlayed Rousey and a few of the favorites.”
And why not throw Rousey in a parlay? Most sharp gamblers would laugh off the idea of betting a 14-1 favorite, but Rousey has offered a guaranteed return on the investment. She is 10-0 with nine victories in the first round after she hammered Alexis Davis in 16 seconds.
“I think she has probably dethroned Mike Tyson,” Rood said.
Rousey is Tyson-like dominant, and only fools are betting against her. Rood said MGM Resorts took a $90,000 straight wager on Rousey and a $50,000 parlay on Rousey, Faber (minus-900) and Hall (minus-450).
Weidman, a 2-1 favorite, won the first three rounds, lost the fourth and had enough to hold off a spirited comeback by Lyoto Machida to win the middleweight title bout by unanimous decision.
The Machida-Weidman brawl capped a strong night of fights, and while the wagering handle was impressive by UFC standards, it fell far short of the action that typically shows up on a boxing card headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“It was one of the better UFC cards we’ve had in at least a year. But it’s 20 percent of what we do on a Mayweather fight, and that’s booking eight or nine fights on the UFC card,” Rood said. “But one of the good things about the UFC is they usually put together the fights that everyone wants to see.”
We never got to see a potentially great heavyweight fight between 7-footer Stefan Struve and Matt Mitrione, a former NFL defensive lineman. Struve blacked out in his locker room after a panic attack and was scratched.
Still, the two nights of fights were the best bet in Las Vegas.
Mayweather is the undisputed king when it comes to money. He makes insane amounts of it, and boxing desperately needs him to stick around.
The UFC stages more major fight cards and has more stars to promote. Unfortunately, Penn is no longer one of them, if the final chapter of his storied career was written Sunday night.
Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow @mattyoumans247 on Twitter.