The epic fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar that capped off the first season of the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ was literally the turning point from the UFC almost going belly up to an overnight sensation growing into the juggernaut it is today.
The three round war between Griffin and Bonnar is still widely considered one of the greatest fights ever, and truly the moment that the UFC hit the big stage.
Unbeknownst to most however is the fact that the fight very nearly didn’t happen.
‘Ultimate Fighter’ season 1 fighter Stephan Bonnar almost didn’t make it to the finale after he snuck out of the house following his semifinal win over Mike Swick, and was almost booted from the show.
UFC President Dana White recounted the story when speaking after Saturday’s UFC 143 event when referencing just how stir crazy the fighters get in the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ house.
“The first season of the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ was the longest season we’ve ever done. It was something like 8 weeks and those guys were losing their (expletive) minds. I almost kicked (Stephan) Bonnar off the show. Bonnar turned the shower on, pretended he was taking a shower and climbed out the window and went to a liquor store. Because we took all the liquor out of the house, remember after the big fight?” White said.
“He got caught obviously. These idiots were in there driving around for six weeks, seven weeks whatever it was, that house was in the middle of nowhere. There’s no liquor store near there. The guy was walking for like an hour and 30 minutes. So the shower was on we caught him leaving.”
Actually according to Bonnar who first told his version of the story when speaking with MMAWeekly Radio all the way back in 2008, says he got busted after he got back with his high end bottle of liquor already purchased and ready for consumption.
It all started during another untold tale from the first season of the show when Bonnar actually contracted staph infection and had to be removed from the house to receive medical treatment. The former ‘Ultimate Fighter’ finalist says it’s easy to spot when he was gone from the house because during one of the most pivotal moments of the show, he’s nowhere to be found.
“Remember the episode where everyone went out and got wasted and (Chris) Leben, (Josh) Koscheck, and (Bobby) Southworth got in the fight and Leben destroyed the house, and he was all drunk?” Bonnar recounted.
“I was nowhere to be found in that episode because I got a pretty bad staph infection and they were all freaked out and the house, they had all our stuff sent to cleaners, and the house cleaned and got everyone out of the house except for me, they actually shipped me off to like the Hoover Dam to be quarantined for three days.”
The hotel that Bonnar was sent to was more than an hour away from the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ house, but lucky for him one of the people left to safeguard the fighter and keep an eye on him during his medical treatments allowed him to have a little fun.
The result was Bonnar being able to afford his liquor purchase upon his return.
“They took all of our belongings and our money, but when I was quarantined at the hacienda the guy watching me actually let me out of my room to come down and play some blackjack with him. Everyone lost but I won like five bucks, and that was enough to buy some Mad Dog,” Bonnar said.
Like White said on Saturday, Bonnar snuck out of a bathroom window at the TUF house, walked to the liquor store and purchased his bottle of Mad Dog and returned. The problem for Bonnar wasn’t necessarily getting out, it was actually getting back into the house.
“The hard part was sneaking back in cause I knew I saw people out with flashlights, I saw people huddled up on the front porch. I stuck back in through the back fence. There’s this little tiny bathroom that I sneaked out of that I was fitting myself back into, I had like one arm in and I was like a little fish until I eventually plopped into the bathtub,” Bonnar said.
“I put a towel around and walked outside and there were all the producers and a bunch of people and I said ‘Wow, you’re right Diego the water pressure in the shower down here’s way better that the water pressure upstairs’. Then the main producer tore into me.”
Needless to say, UFC officials including Dana White were none too happy that Bonnar snuck out of the house, even if it was to buy the high quality Mad Dog. Ultimately, they didn’t kick Bonnar off the show because he was already in the finals and the first season was coming to a close.
“Imagine that, so much crazy (expletive) happened that first season. Imagine if I kicked Stephan Bonnar off the show for going to a liquor store. Forrest and Stephan would have never happened,” said White.
In hindsight, a bottle of Mad Dog almost cost everyone the pleasure of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar at the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ season 1 finale.
Luckily, White allowed Bonnar to remain in the finals and the rest, as they say, is history.