Just as the media was settling in at last Saturday’s UFC 160 post-fight press conference to gush over the performance of UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, company President Dana White surprised those in attendance with the news that former light-heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin had decided to retire from the sport of MMA.
Having last fought Tito Ortiz in July of 2012, Griffin had been forced to pull out of his last scheduled fight in December of 2012 and cited both chronic injuries as well as a belief that he could no longer compete among the UFC’s best as the reason for the decision.
Griffin first gained notoriety among fight fans in 2005 as a contestant on the first season of ”The Ultimate Fighter”. In a three-round, shot for shot war, Griffin outlasted fellow T.U.F. participant Stephan Bonnar to win a unanimous decision in a fight that has been credited with bringing the UFC into the mainstream and was named the promotion’s ”Greatest Fight Of All Time”, among the company’s top 100 greatest fights.
Always a fan favorite, Griffin, still just 33 years old, retired with a [19-7] record and reached the pinnacle of his career in 2008 by winning the UFC Light-heavyweight Championship in a five-round, unanimous decision victory against Quinton ”Rampage” Jackson. Unfortunately for the former law enforcement officer, Griffin was unable to successfully defend his belt and was knocked out by another T.U.F. alum, Rashad Evans in December of 2008.
A graduate of the University of Geogia, Griffin fought MMA legends such as Dan Severn, Jeremy Horn and Chael Sonnen, prior to his UFC career. Having given up on the sport all together in order to pursue a career in law enforcement with the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s office in Georgia, UFC President Dana White was actually forced to persuade Griffin to appear on the first season of ”The Ultimate Fighter”.
After his win over Bonnar in the T.U.F. finale, Griffin was awarded a six-figure contract with the UFC and quickly became known as a fighter who gave everything he had regardless of the circumstances, which in turn, earned him an instant following among fight fans of all stripes.
With wins over Stephan Bonnar, Keith Jardine, Mauricio Rua, Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin during his UFC career, Griffin always remained dangerously relevant and gladly faced any opponent he was asked to fight without hesitation. While never considered elite within the sport, it was his unique combination of street fighter, comedian, and all-around good guy, that endeared Griffin to fight fans and although he made a living inside the octagon, it was Griffin’s slightly evident vulnerability that everyday people most identified with.
For those of us who have been fortunate enough to watch Griffin develop into the UFC Hall of Famer that he will be remembered as, there are specific images of the former champion that will forever be connected to his legend. Maybe it’s the lump on his left forearm suffered in a knockout win over Edson Paradeo in which he broke the bone. Or the image of Griffin running around the octagon, arms triumphantly raised, smile resembling that of a kid at Disney Land for the first time. Or, like myself, it’s the memory of Griffin being knocked out by a back-pedaling Anderson Silva, sending him to the mat and realising that he was in over his head, extended his arm to Silva in the hope of mercy from the Brazilian, which was justly granted.
Fortunately, we haven’t seen the last of Forrest Griffin. The two-time author, occasional actor, graduate of the University of Georgia, MMA trainer, husband, father, and future UFC Hall of Famer, is staying with the UFC, in what capacity however, is still unknown. UFC President Dana White made it clear during Saturday night’s post-fight press conference that Griffin will be missed inside the octagon but will always have a home within the company.
”Forrest Griffin has been a huge star for us.” White told reporters in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
”Anything that we’ve ever asked of Forrest Griffin, he has done. Everytime Forrest Griffin stepped in the octagon, he gave everything he had.”
White also confirmed that the UFC will be honoring both Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar with an induction to the UFC Hall of Fame this July at the UFC Fan Expo.