Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and future Hall of Famer, Forrest Griffin, gave an exclusive interview to MMA Fight Corner about his impending retirement from MMA. With his UFC Hall of Fame induction coming up at the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on July 6, Griffin reflected on his 15-fight career with the UFC and the moments along the way that contributed to making his journey special.
At the UFC 160 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White announced that Griffin was retiring. First, a video vignette featuring Forrest’s UFC career was played, which was set to his customary walk out song “Shipping off to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. It was a way to pay homage to the wars he waged inside the Octagon and also drew an end to his eight year career with the organization.
When Forrest stated to the media that the ride was over, he summed up his decision in simple terms. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that when Dana White says retire, you should retire.”
In 2005, Forrest won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter in an all-out, grueling battle against Stephan Bonnar that to this day remains known one of the best fights in UFC history. In fact, had it not been for Forrest and Stephan’s performances at the first TUF finale, maybe MMA wouldn’t be as mainstream as it is today. News of their fight spread like wildfire as it was underway and was a major turning point for the attention the sport garnered.
To this day, highlights of the clash are shown prior to every UFC event to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. The always quick-witted Griffin said he went into that collision knowing it would be a history making barnburner and that it would later be set to one of rock’s classic songs.
“I was like ‘Hey, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to intentionally gas myself so I fight horrible the second round and just get beat up, and then I’ll try to make a push in the third round’,” Griffin joked. “And then I was even like ‘You know what? I’ve got a great song for you.’ No, I wish though. So whoever did that, smart guy.”
While Griffin noted that that fight with Bonnar was undoubtedly the defining moment of his career, he also revealed that he wasn’t even originally cast to be on the series. In fact, he was called up as an alternate. The Athens, Georgia native had just started working in law enforcement and had given up cage fighting. In a life changing decision, Griffin took a leap of faith to give his MMA career a second chance and quit his job as a cop.
“I was actually a last minute replacement,” Griffin explained. “Some poor guy, who I won’t name, actually failed his drug test for weed, and so I got his spot. I only had 17 days notice. I had just become a cop, and I’d quit my job being a cop in 2002 to become a professional cage fighter. And after years of being broke, and then a low-level bouncer, I decided to finish college and go back to law enforcement.
“And I had just started, had a new job, things were looking up, I was maybe going to take some grad school classes or something – probably not, but the idea was there. I had the application anyway. I was going to do it. But then I was like, ‘Man, it’s that evil mistress, she’s come back. She’s broke my heart once, but she wants me back.’ So I gave it another shot.”
“I’m glad,” Griffin said.”If I didn’t, I would have a lot of regret. Like ‘Man, I could’ve been a big superstar like that Stephan Bonnar if I had only done that show. If they’d given me more than 17 days notice’.”
As fate, or Dana White would have it, Griffin and Bonnar will be inducted to the Hall of Fame together. No matter what happens from here on out, one will always be synonymous with the other. Bonnar even went so far to name his first born son Griffin.
Additionally, the 33-year-old will also be remembered for his wars against Tito Ortiz, his upset in 2007 where he submitted Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and for his defeat of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 2008 that earned him the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. In his nearly twelve year professional MMA career, Griffin walks away with a record of 19-7.
For the time being, Griffin knows it’s in his best interest to walk away from the sport. With three wins out of his last four fights and a unanimous decision win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 148 which earned Fight of the Night honors, Griffin is one of few recently retired fighters to leave the sport off of a W.
With the history he’s had scrapping with some of the highest caliber fighters in the sport including: Anderson Silva, Ortiz, Rua, Bonnar, Rampage and Rashad Evans, Griffin said it wasn’t easy to determine which of those men gave him the toughest fight ever.
“It’s tough to say. I’ve had a lot of tough fights, a lot of bad performances. If people liked me, it’s because I was very real. I never looked super human. I looked less than human sometimes. So, they were all tough. I don’t have a good answer.”
Ultimately, injuries Forrest sustained to his shoulder and knee were what led to his retirement. Most recently, he tore his MCL prior to a scheduled bout at UFC 155 where he was on target to meet Phil Davis. Forrest admitted that if it hadn’t of been for that last injury, the thought of retiring may not have crossed his mind.
But, is it really over? Have we really seen Griffin step into the Octagon for the last time? According to Griffin’s jiu-jitsu coach, Robert Drysdale, Forrest was in the gym as soon as he was cleared to workout after his latest surgery. Drysdale said he wouldn’t be surprised if Forrest made a comeback because of his work ethic and desire to keep pushing himself.
“But, to say I’m unusual for that, most professional athletes have that,” Forrest said of his drive. “Most guys are like ‘Ok when can I start training again?’. I got into this because I like fighting, I like training. It’s fun, you know.”
“I’ll start training again, September, August. Maybe if I’m just magically healed and like everything works great, then I’ll have to try [fighting] again. But, I’m not healthy now.”
Forrest added perhaps the only thing that could drag him out of retirement is “if we’re at the movies and some guy pours a drink on my wife, it’s going down.”
Also, Forrest confirmed that White has kept his word on keeping him employed with the UFC. Griffin will remain a part of the organization, as former champions Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell have done, working in a community outreach capacity.
The UFC Fan Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center will play host to Griffin and Bonnar’s Hall of Fame Induction. It will take place on the main stage at the Expo on July 6. Griffin will be on hand at the Expo on both July 5 and 6 signing autographs for fans and more. Advance tickets are available for purchase on the UFC’s Fan Expo page.
Watch the full interview with Forrest Griffin here: