When discussing the most important fights in UFC history, the conversation usually stops and starts with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar from the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.
In the UFC montage video that plays before every pay-per-view set to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” some of the knockouts or scenes may change, but with the song coming to an end, the climax is always Griffin and Bonnar duking it out, with a stunned crowed watching in awe.
The epic slugfest between Griffin and Bonnar brought in millions of new viewers as people literally started calling their friends during the fight, telling them they had to tune in and watch this instant classic.
But for however great that fight was and the iconic status it will always hold, even UFC president Dana White says the UFC 139 main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua surpassed it.
White points out that what Griffin and Bonnar brought to the table was a fight that everyone was talking about, and it became the perfect storm to set the stage for the future of the UFC.
“Bonnar-Griffin was three rounds between two guys who were trying to get into the UFC. Bonnar-Griffin is an amazing fight and an important fight for us at that point in time to get into the UFC. That fight I think for the mainstream people that tuned in for the first time on Spike, there was a lot of stand-up and back and forth and display of heart and will and then both guys get the contract,” White said recently about that fight.
For as great as Griffin/Bonnar was, however, White points out what was on the line when Henderson and Shogun met last Saturday night.
Shogun, coming off a win over Forrest Griffin in August, was trying to reclaim a top spot in the light heavyweight division, and possibly get another crack at the man who took the title from him, Jon “Bones” Jones.
Meanwhile, Dan Henderson, fresh off a win over former top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, has looked as good at 41 years of age as he ever has before and wanted to make a statement that he deserved the next shot at the UFC light heavyweight title.
It was also only the second ever five-round non-title fight in UFC history, and Henderson and Shogun certainly took advantage of that, putting on one of the greatest fights in MMA history for 25 straight minutes.
White looks at Griffin/Bonnar as the perfect way for the UFC story to unfold, while Henderson and Shogun was simply one of the greatest battles that MMA fans have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
“If this was the WWE, we couldn’t have scripted that thing better than the way that it went for us that night,” said White about Griffin/Bonnar.
“But when you look at the level that (Henderson and Shogun) are at and the big fights that these two have had, and what was on the line, and going five rounds, and the way this fight went. It was one of the sickest fights I’ve ever seen.”
It’s hard to argue with White on that point. Henderson and Shogun may go down as the greatest fight in MMA history, at least until someone else tops it.