by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
2005 was probably the most important year for American Mixed Martial Arts in its short history. It was very much a breakout year for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show propelled the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) into the public spotlight and closer to mainstream than ever before. New stars like Diego Sanchez, Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, Stephan Bonnar, Nate Quarry and Mike Swick were born. Veterans like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell became superstars, but 2005 did more for Forrest Griffin than any other fighter in the world.
Forrest Griffin had retired from MMA and was working as a police officer in Augusta, Georgia when he got the call to participate on ‘The Ultimate Fighter'(TUF). Little did he know that call would take his fighting career out of retirement and launch him into MMA stardom.
Griffin went on to become ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ when he defeated Stephan Bonnar in the light-heavyweight final of the debut season. At one point, 10 million viewers were tuned in to watch the slugfest that was voted by fans as the MMAWeekly 2005 Fight of the Year. Griffin recently spoke with MMAWeekly Radio about the fight of the year honor and his upcoming match with ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,’ Tito Ortiz.
“That’s pretty good. There were actually a lot of good fights this year that I saw.” Forrest Griffin said about his fight being voted Fight of the Year. Asked, “What stands out in your mind when you watch the fight with Bonnar?” Forrest answered, “I don’t know. It’s just lucky for me that I can’t block a punch. You know? That fight sort of made me.”
The bout was a bloody war that ended with both exhausted fighters going toe-to-toe as the final bell rang. Questioned if he’s in pain when watching it, Forrest replied, “Not physical pain. I’m in pain like wow Forrest, how long have you been boxing again? Seven years? It looks like you’ve been boxing two weeks there. Get your damn hands up. Put your chin down. What are you doing? It’s like what the hell is that guy doing? Is that me? Am I really that bad?”
Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar beat out a lot of great fights to be the Fight of the Year. Commenting on some of his favorite fights of 2005, Forrest said, “I liked that Shogun/Minotoro fight. That was one of my favorites. I was surprised maybe some of the shows shown on Spike like when Joe Stevenson fought Luke Cummo. I was surprised that wasn’t up there. I liked that one a lot.”
Griffin will face his toughest test thus far, in April, against the former five-time defending UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz. Forrest’s thoughts on fighting Ortiz were, “It’s a big fight. He’s obviously got everything I want. You know? I kind of wouldn’t mind being him. He’s got that almost celebrity status. He was champ for four years. He’s an awesome athlete. That’s kind of what I want to be when I grow up. I figure the best way to do that is beat him. Right?”
What advantages does Griffin feel he has over Tito? He commented, “He’s a better wrestler. He’s technically probably a better striker. Our Jits is about the same. He’s got a lot more experience. I can’t think of any off hand. I’ve got a much better sense of humor, so I’ve got that going for me.”
Griffin has said in post fight interviews that he wants to fight stand-up fighters and not guys that are going to try to take it to the ground. Tito Ortiz is a ground and pound specialist who, if history tells us anything, will try to take the fight to the ground.
Asked how he will defend against a fighter who is going to constantly shoot single and double leg takedowns, Griffin replied, “I really can’t come up with a better way than to just fight a boring fight than to move around. Just don’t let him back you into any corners. Don’t leave the center of that ring for anything. Just keep moving. Throw two or three punches, move. Move, move, move. Don’t throw a whole lot of kicks. Just keep moving. If you can figure out a better way, I’ll try it.”