Forrest Griffin may have started in the UFC as the original “Ultimate Fighter,” but since then he’s proved himself in several tough bouts and endeared himself to fans. This Saturday he faces his first title bout against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86 and another career-defining moment.
In this exclusive interview, Griffin spoke with CagePotato about his experiences coaching drunken fighters, his plans for “Rampage,” and much more.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for talking with me, Forrest. Tell me, how have you been getting ready specifically for “Rampage”?
You know, a little of this, little of that. I’ve just been having people scowl at me a lot. That’s the first thing you’ve got to prepare for with Rampage. He’s got a good scowl. If you’ve ever watched him fight, have you ever watched him fight?
Yes, I’ve seen him fight.
He’s got a nice little scowl, doesn’t he?
It’s not bad. What else do you think he has in his arsenal, aside from the scowl.
He’s got a good chin. He’s a powerful guy, very explosive. He hits hard.
His trainer mentioned that he expected you to try and stay away from “Rampage” for most of the fight.
Sounds good. I think I’ll do that. Stay on the move. I like that. No, but I don’t want to stand in front of him for too long. Unfortunately he hits harder than I do and has a better chin than I do, so that’s not a good idea.
If he has a better chin, more punching power, and a better scowl, what do you feel like you have to work with?
I feel like I’m better looking than him. That’s just me personally, just my opinion, but there it is. Other than that, I’m going to try and high kick him. Why not?
On the show they made you out to be, if not a better, at least a more interested coach than “Rampage”. Is that accurate?
I would say no. I know I’m not giving you any of the answers you want, sorry. But the truth is I am a horrible coach. Just horrible. But I do know how to set up a training camp and I live in Las Vegas, so I had that advantage. They only fly two coaches out for you, but I was able to have my strength and conditioning coach come in, who they didn’t show once on the show. But I was able to have all my guys come right down the street to the gym, and that was a big help.
And then at the end, when guys are so banged up and there’s a fight every other day and some of the guys are hurt, or they’ve lost and don’t want any part of it any more, it becomes difficult.
I read that toward the end some of the guys who had lost took to drinking, and some even showed up to the training sessions drunk.
Yeah, that happened. I tried to tell the guys, and this is what I told myself when I did the show, that no matter what happened I was going to try and make the best of it. It’s like, look man, you’re basically at fighter fantasy camp here. You’ve got good people around to help you and teach you things. If you can’t get excited about that, even after you lose a fight if you don’t still want to better yourself as a fighter, then you don’t need to be here.
It sounds like you were a good coach. Why do you say you’re horrible at it?
No, I’m just not that technical. Listening to myself corner during those fights there were times when I sounded really ridiculous. You know, I don’t like coaching. I don’t feel like I’m good at it and I just don’t like it. I think Quinton and I were in the same place because all during that show my primary concern was me. I had to do stuff that I needed to.
Was it strange to be back on the show, just from a different perspective? Seems like you came full circle in just a few years.
Yeah, full circle. I heard a lot of the phrase floating around. But I think it’s so different because I got to go home at night and watch movies. I got some down time. Those guys don’t ever get away from each other and they never get away from the atmosphere of fighting or the cameras. I got to go home and sleep in my own bed. That’s what kept me sane.
The word about you is that you’re a hard worker in the gym, that you spend a lot of time training and are something of a gym rat. “Rampage” admits that he hates training. Do you hate it and just push through it anyway, or do you actually enjoy it?
No, I enjoy it. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when I put too much pressure on myself. When I get to be too hard on myself and ask too much of myself, then it gets to be a downward spiral. You start making mistakes and you get frustrated.
I have to find a way to cheer up about practice sometimes. I’m not going to be the best in the world every day in the gym. If I have a bad practice I’ll start beating myself up about it, but I try to keep in perspective. When I started fighting I was paying money in. With the medicals and everything else I would end up paying to fight for my first few fights.
So how do you stay positive after weeks and weeks of training?
I don’t know, maybe I haven’t figured it out completely yet. The biggest thing I try to do is find a way to leave it alone at the end of the day. People talk about leaving work at the office. That’s something I’ve learned to do. If I’m going to watch film or something I watch it during the day. I don’t want to even think about it at night. I have to take a respite from it. Then I can start fresh the next day.
So now that you’re fighting for a title, is there anything in “Rampage” that you’ve seen that you can take advantage of?
You know, Quinton’s a tough guy and he’s very competitive. I’ve never seen him quit in a fight. I thought maybe his cardio was suspect and maybe he’d quit until I saw the twenty-five minute fight between him and Dan Henderson in England. I can’t explain how much traveling to a foreign country and all that during the week of your fight takes out of you. It’s amazing. And he still managed to go twenty-five minutes hard against an Olympic medalist. That’s impressive, you know.
“Rampage” recently said that he didn’t really watch your fight with “Shogun” Rua because he thought “Shogun” was so bad that night that even his girlfriend could have beat him. Do you think that the “Shogun” you beat was not the same one who beat “Rampage” back in Pride?
I had no idea he said that until just now. Wow. But I think Shogun was not a hundred percent when I fought him, that’s for sure. I think he had more to offer than we saw when he fought me.
So have you been able to devise a game plan from watching old “Rampage” fights?
Yeah, but I’d be making a mistake if I told you what it was. If I saw something big I’d be smart to keep it under my hat. But yeah, I’ve got a game plan. I’ve seen some things that I think I can exploit, but I think I’m going to keep it to myself.
Fair enough. The little tiff you guys had on the show, was that all played up by TV editing or were you two genuinely upset at one another?
I don’t know. I hate to lose, he hates to lose, so I expected that. One thing I’ve never tried to be in my life is a good loser. I’m a good winner. When I win I shut my mouth and I don’t say anything bad about the guys. But I never want to be a good loser. A good loser gets good at losing.
So you don’t hold those outbursts against “Rampage” now.
No, of course not. I mean, look at me. I got upset even during some of the close ones that I won. So I have no room to talk there.
What’s been the toughest part of being a pro fighter for you?
I think one thing is the wear and tear on your body. The thing about fighting professionally is that in order to get ready for a fight you have to come pretty close to really fighting at least a few times a week. If you’re really going to get good at it, you come really close to fighting. That’s just how it is.
That, and media obligations, stuff people don’t really think about. You know, I’m a pretty cloistered guy. I don’t really go anywhere besides going to the gym. I don’t like to go anywhere period. I like to stay home and watch movies, and that’s about it. Sometimes you have to go out and do stuff, be in the public eye and all that. I don’t know, I think I’m pretty good at faking it.