NEW YORK — Frankie Edgar’s long and illustrious UFC career came to an ignominious end on Saturday at Madison Square Garden when he was knocked out by a leaping knee from Chris Gutierrez at 2:01 of the first on the main card of UFC 281.
Edgar hadn’t landed anything of note as he looked for an opening. Gutierrez leapt with a knee and caught him on the chin and like that, it was over instantly.
“Thanks, everybody,” a subdued Edgar said to the crowd. “I think it’s awesome.”
His career was awesome, even if his finale was not. He ends his career with a 24-11-1 record. He won the lightweight championship by defeating B.J. Penn at UFC 112 on April 10, 2010, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He defended it successfully three times before losing it to Benson Henderson in 2012.
Edgar was far too small for the lightweight division and would routinely give up 15 or more pounds on fight night. He eventually gave in to the pleas from his team and fans and moved to featherweight and then bantamweight.
He was 15-1-1 after defeating Gray Maynard at UFC 136 in Houston on Oct. 8, 2011. He went 9-10 the rest of the way but fought the greatest fighters of his era.
When he was knocked out Saturday, there was an eerie hush over the sellout crowd. There was none of the buzz that usually follows a spectacular knockout. When Edgar was helped to a stool, Gutierrez went over, knelt in front of him and expressed his respect for several moments.
UFC president Dana White entered the Octagon after the fight, which he rarely does except after title fights, to pay respect to Edgar.
And when Joe Rogan interviewed Edgar in the cage, the crowd roared its approval.
It wasn’t the kind of storybook finish he wanted, and he went out the way so many 41-year-old fighters do, on the wrong end of a spectacular ending. But Edgar created so many memories for UFC fans over a more than 15-year stint in the promotion that those were what was on the minds of his fans, not the struggles at the end.
Edgar will soon be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and rightly so. He’ll be gone but never forgotten.