Published Friday, Jan. 30, 2009 | 5:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 | 9:21 a.m.
Main event: Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn, UFC welterweight title
When: Jan. 31
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Tickets: Sold out
The real excitement Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand wasn’t inside the Grand Garden Arena during the official weigh-ins for tomorrow’s UFC 94.
Nope, just hundreds of yards down the casino’s main corridor came a woman’s loud screams — the sound of someone who had just one a big jackpot.
The lady’s husband, John (he preferred not to give out his last name) had just won half a million dollars on a high-limit slot machine.
While John didn’t attend the weigh-in, the Northern California man said he owes his good fortune on coming to Las Vegas to attend the superfight and bet on the Super Bowl.
So who does the lucky gambler have some of his newfound cash on tomorrow night?
“I like St. Pierre,” John said, flashing an unbelievably big smile.
St. Pierre’s teammate and UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans kicked off the day’s fight festivities with an hour-long Q & A session with select UFC fans before the weigh-in.
He, of course, favored his teammate, although the raucous crowd barely let him spit out his answer.
“I’m gonna say third round and two minutes, 38 second into that round, B …” said Evans, who couldn’t even complete his sentence before the boos made his microphone inaudible.
“You guys didn’t let me finish what I was gonna say,” Evans continued. “I was gonna say B.J. was gonna get knocked out with a head kick.”
The pro St. Pierre fans showered their support with applause.
One woman, surrounded by a sea of people in black Team Hawaii shirts, showed her strong disapproval by shaking her head.
It was Penn’s mother, Lorraine Shin, who anxiously watched her son’s training regiment on a replay of “UFC Primetime,” the special countdown show on Spike TV that was being shown on several big screens.
“I’m really nervous,” said Shin, who was seated with 20 or so immediate family members who made the trip from their home in Hilo, Hawaii. “But I’m also very excited.
“I think everyone knows this is one of the biggest moments in my son’s life.”
Shin said she knows her son his completely focused on the fight. She said the attitude that Penn has talked about so much recently has clearly been on display, even when the television cameras weren’t rolling.
“I know that he just had to fight him (St. Pierre) one more time,” Shin said. “After the first fight, he just didn’t know how he lost. He was very upset and he has been waiting a long time for this moment.”
Friday’s big moment, the weigh-in, was actually very subdued. Nothing like the months of nonstop talk that played out in a multi-city promotional tour, a handful of press conferences, and “UFC Primetime."
Besides the face-off exchange, where an intense Penn inched closer and closer before stopping literally an inch away from St. Pierre’s face, the two fighters offered few words for the capacity crowd to cheer on.
“I’m ready. There’s no more to say,” said Penn, who tipped the scales at 168 pounds. “Let’s go.”
St. Pierre, who is a minus 160 favorite at the MGM sports book, was also quick with his thoughts when host Joe Rogan asked him to weigh-in on “the biggest fight in UFC history.”
“I’ve never been so excited for a fight. I’ve never wanted to win so bad,” said St. Pierre, who weighed right at 170-pounds. “Tomorrow I think is gonna be a great fight.”