Don’t get me wrong, I have always like Forrest Griffin. Griffin’s fights are always entertaining and he has given us what is arguably the best fight in UFC history. Not to mention some of the more memorable upsets in MMA over the years. He is a fantastic character and can only be good for the sport. Yet that never made me an unabashed fan boy. I always thought he was an overrated commodity. But that has all changed thanks to Griffin accepting the toughest fight of his career.
During the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter I was rooting Stephan Bonnar. So many years later and I don’t even remember why I cheered on the Chicago native over the guy who was born in Columbus. But for whatever reason I had my heart set upon Bonnar winning the first TUF finale.
After watching their epic bout (really there is no word that describes how tremendous a fight it was) I was a amazed, transfixed, shocked, astounded and any other adjective you could use to describe the emotional state of excited bewilderment. Watching that fight was without a doubt one of the top-ten sporting experiences of my life. But that didn’t make me an instant Griffin acolyte.
I joined the chorus of early critics, citing the UFC’s protectionist matchmaking as a reason to be spectacle of this reality star. Griffin’s loss to Tito Ortiz just confirmed my suspicion that Forrest was just a popular reality star, not a top-ten fighter.
The Keith Jardine fight was another chapter in that storyline. Jardine’s sudden knockout victory cast serious doubts over Forrest’s chin and survivability.
When Forrest took on the Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua fight I thought that Griffin was making a major mistake. After all, Keith Jardine had just knocked him out and now he is going to take on the number one light heavyweight in the world? How could this not be some strange suicidal wish? But Forrest preserved and defeated the former Pride fighter.
Griffin’s shocking victory didn’t make me a fan (stubbornness runs in my family). I was resentful how many fans gleefully overlooked Shogun’s ACL injury, an injury that took eighteen months and two surgeries to rehab. It was obvious that the knee injury depleted Shogun’s energy allowing Griffin to win. While the victory was impressive –Forrest suffered an arm injury in the fight– I wasn’t ready to jump on the bandwagon.
Griffin was rewarded with a title shot against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Jackson had recently defeated Dan Henderson and Chuck Liddell, clearly Rampage’s power would overcome Forrest’s suspect chin. Or so I thought. Griffin proved the critics and myself wrong again (noticing a trend here?). Yet the highly suspect and controversial scoring gave me pause. Rounds that observers saw in favor of Jackson were awarded to Griffin and there was the sudden appearance of 10-8 scoring in rounds that weren’t that lopsided.
I write all this not to bash or hate on Forrest Griffin. I just want to explain why I was never a huge fan of his. I loved his fighting style, his commitment to evolve his game and his charisma. But then again I am an odd sort of character since I love watching Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans fight.
Now Forrest Griffin is preparing to face Anderson Silva, probably the best fighter in the world and Silva may yet prove to be the greatest UFC champion ever. It seems that once again Griffin is willingly and perhaps gleefully walking into the lion’s den.
Forrest Griffin has longed claimed that he will fight anyone and wants to fight the best. The Shogun fight was the first chapter of Griffin’s quest, the Silva fight may be the climax.
Currently the countdown to August and UFC 101 is underway. Personally, I can’t wait for this fight. There will be no UFC 100 hangover waiting for meaningful cards or main events, it will start a month later. Now it doesn’t matter to me if Griffin wins or loses. There will be no more excuses on my part only sincere admiration for a great fighter at the height of his career.
Zak Woods is the founder of the mixed martial arts blog WatchKalibRun.com.