(Photo via Getty Images)
By Elias Cepeda
Yesterday morning I watched the video of Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar’s UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is embedded at the end of this post. Really, I watched to see and hear from Bonnar.
Nothing against Forrest. I love watching the guy fight and he embodies everything that is great about MMA, but I’ve always had a special interest in “The American Psycho.”
Bonnar, or “RoboCop” as they used to call him back in Chicago where he trained with Carlson Gracie Sr. and began his career, was just the second guy I ever interviewed for a professional story, back in 2005. The guys you’ve covered for nearly the entirety of their careers always hold a special place in your heart.
I interviewed Bonnar a number of times over the first few years of his UFC career but since then I have only connected with him a couple times for interviews. The last time I spoke with Stephan was over the telephone for a feature at UFC.com when he came out of retirement to fight Anderson Silva last year. It has been a rough roller-coaster year for Bonnar — who sort-of retired after putting together a three-fight win streak in the Octagon, came back only to be shredded by Silva at UFC 153, retired again (for real this time), had a son, and failed a drug test for steroids — and I was interested in what he had to say at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Especially since so many writers have taken the occasion to criticize him and give the UFC flack for including him in its Hall of Fame. I’d always taken it for granted that he and Forrest Griffin both would one day be inducted.
It just made sense. The two of them lifted The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC out of obscurity with their epic slobber-knocker in the season one finale. Griffin won, but Bonnar fought so well that he too was given a UFC contract.
In all, Bonnar would have two razor-close decision fights with Griffin, who himself made history as the first-ever fully unified (UFC, Pride, Pride Grand Prix) linear 205-pound champion. For nearly a decade, Bonnar fought the best and toughest the UFC had to offer and the only guy to truly out-class him was Anderson Silva. That fight, of course, happened because Bonnar was willing to come out of retirement and help save an event for the UFC and the fans.
There’s good reason to believe that professional mixed martial arts would not exist today if not for the UFC. There’s also good reason to believe that the UFC would not exist today if not for TUF 1, and the unforgettable climax that Griffin and Bonnar provided in their finale bout.