Ask UFC Rio participant and former Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin a question about fighting in Brazil and he’s not going to give you a broad answer. Rather, he’ll explain it with a sense of discomfort and keep it short and to the point.
As they say, that’s just how he rolls.
When it comes to fighting Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a rematch, the same sense of discomfort hits the atmosphere. Griffin has been humorously open about not wanting to get into the tough fights at 205 pounds, despite being characterized as one of the toughest guys ever to fight in the UFC. But fighting is Forrest’s job and, with his next task on the line being a second going with Rua, it doesn’t seem like things are getting any easier for the Las Vegas resident.
Being Forrest is a tough gig.
“You watch Shogun and you see how good he fought against Chuck Liddell and you just try and be ready for that Shogun, not necessarily the Shogun I fought,” Griffin said.
After losing to Griffin in their first match-up, many tossed around the idea that “Shogun” is a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to his conditioning and health. Rua was a heavy favorite in their first meeting and no one expected him to look as gassed as he did in the second round. Huge gasps for breath by Rua were nearly as big a surprise as Dennis Hallman’s banana hammock at UFC 133.
The image just didn’t make sense to MMA fans familiar with what typically happens in the Octagon.
But Dr. Jekyll was put away for Rua’s fight against Chuck Liddell. The Brazilian fighter put the former UFC light heavyweight champ away with a thunderous left hook and subsequent hammer fists, giving the impression that he was more than capable of showcasing the vicious style that made him so popular during his Pride Fighting Championship days.
Griffin hopes he doesn’t get that version of “Shogun,” but wants to be ready for him.
“It seemed like when he fought Chuck, he was 100-percent on his game,” Griffin said. “Hopefully that’s not the guy that will show up, but that’s the guy you want to be ready for.”
Hard to imagine that the first Rua-Griffin match-up was nearly four years ago. At the time, Pride had just recently been purchased by Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of the UFC, months before and a lot of the MMA talent from Japan was on its way to America.
Since then, whispers have filled the air with rumblings about Japanese MMA’s demise and the lack of competition coming from that region of the world. The sport’s evolution has seen its greatest leaps made in the last few years, so it’s safe to say that Rua-Griffin II can and will be much different than Griffin-Rua I.
How different, you ask? Well, for starters, they’re not fighting anywhere near a place Griffin feels at home. The Las Vegas-based fighter loves competing in Sin City or any of the surrounding areas because getting to the fight is a simple drive. It’s not as though he can just hop in his car and drive to Brazil.
Well, he can, but… gas is expense, you know.
In addition, this isn’t Shogun’s debut in the UFC, like it was the last time. Rua was used to fighting in a ring where ropes were the only things separating he and his opponent from the surrounding spectators. Insert the cage and you get a feeling that is just as foreign as Forrest Griffin fighting in Rio de Janeiro.
“That was his first fight in UFC,” Griffin commented about the first time he faced Rua. “It was his first fight in the cage, I was his first fight without chips on the ground, you know, so it’s different.”
In fact, things have pretty much made a 180-degree turn since the last time these two met. Everything seems to be in his opponent’s favor and all appears to different from their first meeting with the exception of one thing: Griffin is, once again, an underdog.