ALar takes a look at the career and legacy of the original ‘Ultimate Fighter’
After a rousing evening at the bossman’s crib watching UFC 160, I proceeded to head back to my humble abode and boot up my MacBook to check out the event’s post fight press conference. As the event stream began, Dana White began to laud the superlatives of a fighter whose retirement he was about to announce. I assumed that this fighter was Matt Serra, as the one time Welterweight champ had announced his retirement earlier in the week. Without naming the said retiree, White segued to a video package. As the camera panned, the Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping up to Boston” blared and Forrest Griffin filled the screen. I was shocked. Saddened, even. Will I really never have the opportunity to watch this guy in the Octagon again? Griffin’s career has spanned the entire time period that I have followed MMA. I knew him as the original Ultimate Fighter winner; somehow, some way, he represented my association with the sport. He was an easy guy to root for and a pure entertainer inside and outside of the cage. With Forrest’s career coming to an end, it seems as though the MMA blogosphere is relatively quiet about one of the foundations of the current iteration of the sport hanging up his gloves for good. Why is this? The lackluster run of fights he had at the end? The Silva debacle? Who knows, but would the sport be where it is today without Forrest Griffin? Possibly, but there is no doubt in my mind that the gregarious Griffin certainly helped the UFC reach the unprecedented heights that it is experiencing today.
I could wax poetic about Griffin’s career for thousands of words, but will work to keep this on the shorter side. Something about Griffin drew fans like me to fervently root for the guy. Whether it was his odd but entertaining interview demeanor, or his willingness to scrap with anyone in the sport, the guy could draw a crowd. Whenever ‘Shipping up to Boston’ hit the speakers, you always knew a battle was about to go down in the cage. From his seminal Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale slugfest with Stephan Bonnar, to his upset win over UFC newcomer Shogun Rua, Griffin defied all odds.
He has an ‘average white guy’ quality to him that many fans (including myself) could identify with. It seemed as though when he racked up the wins and accolades fans were just in disbelief that this gorilla man was one of the best fighters on the planet Earth. I don’t know if the MMA community ever truly appreciated Forrest Griffin. As soon as he reached the zenith of the sport and won the Light Heavyweight title, he was soon brought crashing down to earth by consecutive devastating losses to Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva. Unfortunately, after these two losses, Griffin became more of an Internet meme, rather than a celebrated foundation to the UFC’s current thriving state. Sure he beat up on Rich Franklin and Tito Ortiz (twice…) after those losses, but we never really got another shining moment from Forrest after those KOs .
Fans may be tempered about his retirement because of the mild taste his last few trips to the cage left on our collective palates, but it needs to be noted that this guy is one of the greatest to ever do it. Forrest exemplifies the ‘zero to hero’ story that we love so much here in America and his career reached heights that no one thought possible. Hats off to Forrest Griffin, one of the best to ever step foot in the Octagon. Here’s to defying the odds and kicking ass for the last eight years.