Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale: Stephan Bonnar Comes Full Circle

December 1, 2010

Go ahead and ask Stephan Bonnar how ready he is for any given fight he has coming up.

The answer will likely be the same in every instance.  What answer is that?  Well, it goes a little something like, “I’m ready to whoop some ass!”

Stephan Bonnar and Jon Jones at UFC 94

Stephan Bonnar and Jon Jones at UFC 94

That’s what “The American Psycho” told MMAWeekly Radio last week.  The Ultimate Fighter alumnus is scheduled to return to the setting that made him famous when he takes on Team Cro Cop fighter Igor Pokrajac at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale.

It’s been a long time coming for Bonnar.  As a cast member of TUF’s inaugural season, he is part of a game changing crew in mixed martial arts.  He and a number of other names such as Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez and, of course, Forrest Griffin, kicked off what would become the unofficial minor league system of the UFC.

Through the show’s 12 seasons, many names have been discovered and, ultimately, had their careers flourish as a result of being on the famed reality show.  Now in his 10th year of fighting, Bonnar reflects on coming back to the show that shifted the gears of his career.

“Twelve seasons later… wow!” he said.  “Back on the same show and I feel good about it.  It feels like I’ve come full circle and I’m ready to (expletive) put on a great fight.  I felt, before that Forrest fight, I had the same feeling.”

It’s that fight against Forrest Griffin that holds a heavy influence over the fighters that enter that show.  Two athletes showed amazing heart that night and battled each other to the edge of consciousness.

Beaten, bloodied, and bruised, Bonnar and Griffin stood in the center of the Octagon after the fight awaiting the decision to be handed down by ring announcer Bruce Buffer.  When the winner was announced, it was Bonnar who was forced to listen to his opponent’s name read as the victor.

Although he had not won the fight on the judges’ scorecards, Bonnar had won the attention of UFC brass.  The grit, heart, and determination he displayed in the Octagon earned him a six-figure contract, much like his opponent had earned with a win that night.

“When the decision went to Forrest, in my mind I was like, ‘Oh,well.  I gave it my all.  Time to get back to my life and figure out what I’m gonna do with it,’” Bonnar explained.  “Then, it all changed.  I was like, ‘Well, looks like I am gonna be fighting.’”

Jokingly, Bonnar looks back at his time as a fighter and recognizes that he’s been doing this for a long time – longer than most fighters in the sport today.

“I can’t believe it when I think I’ve been fighting for 10 years.  It makes me feel old!” Bonnar said with a laugh.  “Hopefully I’ll be able to enunciate my words and not be pissing my pants for another few years.”

Like most fighters his age, the talk of retirement comes up every now and again.  For Bonnar, there are still a few miles left in his engine before it’s time to call it a career.

How many miles that is, however, is tough to say.  With being a fighter comes a hunger to compete and age isn’t necessarily a deterrent when it comes to the fight game.  Take the obvious example of Randy Couture.  He competed as recently as August, yet the man is 47 years old.

Will Stephan Bonnar fight into his 50s?  Probably not, but the former TUF finalist humorously suggests that fighting past his prime may just happen.

“All the fighters always say they’re going to quit before they get to that point, so I’m going to say that as well.  But just watch, I’ll be like 60 years old, me and Forrest will be fighting again all washed up and old,” he said.  “It definitely won’t be at 205 (pounds) either.”