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Has Forrest Griffin Lost the Heart to Fight?

Forrest Griffin circa 2005 had the heart of a lion (and the face of a gremlin).

Forrest Griffin became a household MMA name after his run through the original Ultimate Fighter show. Goofily charming, Griffin had already amassed a record fitting a UFC fighter before appearing the show, with names like Dan Severn, Travis Fulton, Jeff Monson, Jermey Horn, and Chael Sonnen on his record. But it was Griffin’s gritty determination to fight and win that so impressed audiences back in 2005 that made him a fan favorite. His three round finale win over Stephan Bonnar, hailed as one of the most important fights in MMA history, was an instant classic not because Griffin thoroughly outclassed Bonnar, but because both fighters showed so much tenacity and desire in the fight. If you don’t mind me throwing the term around, Forrest Griffin won over fans because he showed a great deal of heart.  It was clear just by watching him that Griffin wanted to fight, more than anything.

Six years later, Griffin is still with us and still somewhere in the top tier of light heavyweights, with a rematch against Shogun Rua to prove that Griffin belongs in that tier. Griffin said in interviews prior to the fight that a second win over Shogun would “validate” him as an elite light heavyweight.

And then he lost.

Leading up to the fight, Griffin had been a bit less sanguine about his fight than usual. Oh, Griffin still had jokes — he’s always a guy that will crack off a one-liner at any given time — but reading between the lines, some wondered whether Griffin still had the competitive fire that once burned so brightly in him. And after a loss to Shogun in which he looked slow and disinterested, some have begun to seriously ask: has Griffin lost the heart to fight?

Before appearing as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin competed at Heat FC 2 against Edson “Paredao” Silva. During the fight, he blocked a Paredao kick that broke his left arm. Griffin won the fight, via knockout. He would go on to have surgery on that arm after his TUF win two years later.

Griffin and Bonnar gained tons of fans (including Dana White) through a combined force of will — a double-team assault of heart so palpable that audiences could feel it watching at home. Even Forrest’s first win over Shogun was a show that when times got tough and the water got deep, Griffin dug down and pulled through.

Griffin seemed different after losing his fight with Anderson Silva, which is the closest thing anyone in contemporary times has ever seen to hand to hand combat with a Jedi.  His confidence took a big hit, and his self-deprecating humor took on a tone that was uncomfortably close to a disclaimer.  Griffin laughed as he talked about how ineffective he felt in that Silva fight, and we all laughed along, but really?  Yeah, he really did look like a slow, slow white boy getting beat up by his dad.

Now, Griffin’s comparing his acceptance of the Shogun rematch with the stages of grieving. He doesn’t talk about wanting to be the number one fighter in the world, he talks about not wanting to be poor.  He’s not talking about how he’s going to smash Shogun, he’s talking about wanting to smash some sweet potatoes, but he can’t find any in the far-off mythical land of Brazil.

Those aren’t the visualization habits and lofty motivations of a world beater.  If all that matters is not being poor, one could argue that Griffin had made it.  His five years with the UFC before the Shogun fight were probably lucrative enough to prevent worry about going back to a campus beat and Top Ramen, not to mention White’s oft-repeated loyalty to one of the fighters that helped save the UFC.

Couple all that with another shattering loss in the Octagon, this time against the guy who catapulted Forrest to the top of the division and a title shot in 2008, and you have to wonder where Griffin’s head is at.  If he’s lost the desire to compete that made him such a fan favorite, can he regain it?  Is Forrest Griffin, sans heart, a fighter that can stay at the top of the UFC’s dangerous 205 division?

As a fan of Griffin’s, I really hope so.  I hope that this poor performance was just a result of traveling far from home, dealing with an unfamiliar culture, and having a really tough fight with a guy on his home turf.  God knows, Griffin had plenty on his mind.  But part of me does wonder if Griffin’s heart is still in it.

I may have some grieving of my own to do.


Cagepotato Comments

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theflyingtsunami- August 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm
sorry, no paragraph breaks showed even typed that way
theflyingtsunami- August 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm
I also had the same feelings as rushdown77 & ksgobo but moreso starting w/ the rashad evans fight then it was worse w/ silva.
Certainly, I understand Griffin may have been distracted b/c of his wife, but to me, this was a horrible loss and horrible fight for him. This is the 2nd time now that it honestly looked like he took a dive or just gave up. The end of this fight was eerily similar to how he lost to Rashad Evans. At least in that fight he had put up a fight before losing.

My issue w/ it is he really was NOT hit by Rua but was sort of off balance swinging himself and trying to avoid Rua's strikes. In any case, he went down, ok, no problem there. But then he basically doesn't seem to know how to defend himself properly by covering up or even trying to grab Rua. The same happened w/ Rashad fight, look back at both. He just sort of flails around and gets hit. I realize Rua's punches are hard but he doesn't even try to block or grab and just sort of bounces to the punches. I honestly felt the same after Rashad's fight. He went down in that one and was initially moving around but then once the hits came, he flailed and bounced and essentially tapped out to it although he denies that.

I dunno, for someone who has the heart and never say die that Forrest used to have, it seems totally out of character for him to lose this way. Think about how he fought Bonnar in the 1st fight and then Rua and even Ortiz, he is NOT the same fighter whether it be mental, or some other sinisiter reason but this is not the Forrest who would not give up and got mad when he was struck, and struck back in his brawler style. You can't tell me he doesn't know how to try to put his arms over his face to block shots or even try to grab Rua's arms for control.
I'm just very disappointed in how Forrest has been fighting lately and certainly how he's been talking about his fighting. It doesn't bode well for the future.

The article hits the crux of what is wrong or different about Griffin: his last 5 fights even though he beat Ortiz and Franklin are no way the same Forrest who fought in the beginning of his career and up to winning the title.
rushdown77- August 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm
@ksgbobo - I totally agree. Both the Silva vs Okami AND Shogun vs Griffin were rigged.

Looks like White and Co. are really desperate for the UFC brand do well in Brazil. Casual fans might be deceived but I've seen enough matches to know which ones are real and which ones are WWE.

Okami gets dropped by a straight jab from Silva? That is just unreal. Also Okami barely put up a fight on the ground and had his hands covered prematurely.

And as for the Griffin vs Shogun fight, we've all seen White's poster boy go down on-call during his fight with Silva.
RwilsonR- August 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm
@ XENO - I never said that the UFC doesn't play the ratings game. They do, and they should. They are running a business. But that doesn't mean Dana or Lorenzo can't like a fight or fighter as a fan. They are both huge fans of the sport.
pogodog7- August 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm
Before, Forrest was crazy/brave. He just kept on coming no matter what was thrown at him. Now, it seems that he has lost that. You can call it maturity or that he now has a responsibility to his family not to become a human punching bag. Whatever, he is absolutely not the same fighter he once was. If he fought Stephen Bonnen now, Forrest would not make it past the 2nd round.
XENOPHON- August 30, 2011 at 7:48 am
@Luiz Alexandre
The is a wise lesson in what you said. Watch out for fighters who have gotten married or who have recently had children. It means they are nesting. (LOL)
Their mind shifts from smashing one's opponent to that of the nurturer of their offspring. I am guessing that most fighters find this conflict with life as polarizing.
Unless grounded and able to disassociate the two, the mental grappling game effects ones zeal. A few will step through the mental barrier unscathed. Some may even drop a few fights. For others, consecutive losses will be too much for their esteem to carry them through. They will simply fade fast and the 3 strikes rule will take effect.
Those that shine will step through such a mental hurdle and continue on with improving their fight game. It's these that the zest for competitiveness burns brightest. I doubt many care, but for the bookie, gambler, predictive mindset, and the fan - one will be all the wiser for remembering this before you lay your money down.
How many fighter have gotten themselves sprung on some trim, and then subsequently fallen to the wayside once in the ring?
SnackDaddy- August 30, 2011 at 5:18 am
Forrest should just retire and write books-- he's quite good at it. It's pretty clear his heart's no longer in fighting. the guy nearly fell over every time he attempted to kick.
Me likey- August 30, 2011 at 5:13 am
the ufc definatley doesn't book fights based on record alone. if that were so john fitch would have had a rematch with gsp about 3 wins ago.
Luiz Alexandre- August 29, 2011 at 5:38 pm
Great article, ReX.
I am from Brazil and was rooting for Shogun, but although I was happy that Shogun could dominate the fighter the way he did, I felt sad that Griffin didn't represent a challenge to Shogun.He should have stayed home with his wife instead of fighting in here, period. I don't think his fighting days are over, as long as he still have inside of him that fire, that urge to go the cage and tear some MF apart. That dude is definately one of the good guys, I guess he just needs to use his head and think about the fights he takes, specially now that he has a kid.
DangadaDang- August 29, 2011 at 5:18 pm
I think its too early to write off Griffin, but there's no doubt he has seemed to just be going through the motions as of late. Considering the circumstances going into this fight it is easy to see why though.
XENOPHON- August 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm
I don't hate the player, I hate the games. Yeah, I really do not only think, I know the UFC plays the ratings games. That is how they earn their coin - just like all other promoters.
It's even gonna get worse and more obvious not that FOX is in the mix, as those boys demand (under contract) ever ounce of flesh they paid for.
Your a bright man, In person I would even introduce you as such to others. Yet I am left scratching my head this afternoon, do you really want me to believe that you think the UFC's "best in the business bookie", a man named Mr. Joe Silva actually matches fights based on demonstrable records?
The UFC and every single fight promotion out there is a big giant numbers game. Can anyone please convince me otherwise?
RwilsonR- August 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm
@ XENO - are you really such an anti-Dana idealogue that you think he needs ratings to tell him who and what he should be a fan of? So stupid.
Null Kuhl- August 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm
I definitely call BS on this article. Watch the fight again. He didn't look scared at all. Perhaps a little tight, but hell, as everyone else has said, he had a lot on his mind. He was in that fight until he got rocked. He was even trying to move and defend himself on the ground, but Shogun just swarmed him. How about instead of questioning his heart, we just acknowledge that he had a hell of a lot going on in his life, and Shogun is a serious danger to anyone not named Jon Jones?
edhedicus- August 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm
How long could you expect an educated, intelligent guy like Forrest to stick around? He always had good skills, pillow hands, and an uncanny ability to get better as his ass got beat. Heart is a dumb word, but you cannot deny that he had a desire to test himself and that was got him through. If he only wants to provide for his family, there will probably be a show slot for him on FX. Sad, big Forrest of old fan. At least Bonnar still seems to have the desire to fight.
lkov52- August 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm
Thank anderson silva for taking the fight out of forrest before the silva fight griffin was winning fights and slowly making his way back to a title shot
XENOPHON- August 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm
Come on [RX], you know better...

"Griffin and Bonnar gained tons of fans (including Dana White) through a combined force of will"
Dana was informed by the bean counters and support staff bloggers that the fans enjoyed the shit out of the first "Griffin vs. Bonnar" fight.
Everyone but you seems to know, it's only Dana's "will of the ratings" that makes him a fan of anyone. Today's "D-"
XENOPHON- August 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm
There is nothing wrong with the 32 year old Forrest Griffin, all of you that want to write him off so fast are leaving money on the table.
His roll starts slow into every fight. Comparing Rua to Forrest, Rua comes out fast yet often slows. The entire fight hinged on who would unleash the 1st 4 minutes.
Forrest had no option but to fight Rua, as Rua is the road block for any of the ex-champions who want to reclaim their title.
As Fried Taco said; Forrest simply got handed a sammwiche.
Nut Puncher 9000- August 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm
My take is this...Forrest IS a heart fighter. Thats the first thing anyone will mention when asked about him and his fighting style, Christ, its probably the only reason he has a strong fan base to begin with. Soooo...what does the UFC do??? Schedule him to rematch a man that he finished (to define much of his career as a top tier fighter) in Rio on a Brazilian revival tour while his wife is about to have a child. Only an idiot would think that their first fight accurately depicted who is the "better" fighter in the sense of skill and Forrest is no idiot. Give him a rematch he does not need or even want, in a place he certainly does not want to go for it, at a time he does not want to leave, and then expect his heart to be in it? Why do you think that DW used the word "Favor" when talking about Forrest?!?! He NEVER uses that with anyone. If that is not acknowledging that they took away every reason for his head/heart to be in it...I dont know what does.
Gobbleston- August 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm
I've always like Forrest, but I've not thought he was a really amazing fighter. Even in his win against Rich, something seemed off with Rich's game, and he certainly wasn't expecting takedowns from Forrest. No hate on a "good game plan" but kind of a shock from Forrest. I would love to see Forrest fight someone up and coming to get his confidence back. Yes, up and coming is secret code for "can".
amsterdamheavy- August 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm
Baldfather said his wife was texting him that she was going in to labor - and he already didnt want to be away for this event anyway, but did it as a favor. His motivation would seem to have been at an all time low from the interviews he gave during fight week then throw in the going into labor thing and his head was probably scrambled.

Id say GTFO off the guy's back with this shit - he's human and going through a milestone event in life, the birth of a child. Top it off with SHogun fighting at home and it is what it is. The harshest thing you could say is that "his priorities were skewed".

Personally, I dont even know why they made this match - Shogun got fuckin finished the first time and aside from letting a guy avenge a loss, there was no reason to take that fight or make that match in the first place. Tito v Forest 3 makes more sense actually, at least it would be a rubber match.
HugePenisLarry- August 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Rewatching the fight it really does look like Griffin isn't in it to win it. He doesn't seem like the guy who loves fighting. That's what I liked about him so much when he first got into the UFC. He looked like he would enjoy fighting even if it were in a bar somewhere. He doesn't seem to have that anymore.
dim mak- August 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm
it didn't look like Forrest was even hit that hard by Shogun before going down. it didn't seem to me like he really wanted to win--he was more concerned with not getting hurt, which, for a guy like Forrest, means he's done as a top-level fighter.

even in his victory over Franklin, he looked afraid to go into the pocket and take risks; not that i can blame him--i sure wouldn't want too, either, but--you kind have to do that in the UFC unless you're a top-level takedown or submission guy.
djp1988- August 29, 2011 at 11:36 am
Honestly, I feel like Griffin should be on a suicide watch based on the tone of his interviews alone.
ksgbobo- August 29, 2011 at 11:30 am
Am I the only one that thinks this fight and the Silva vs Okima fight were called?! There is no way these weren't called. That's my excuse for his poor performance.
RwilsonR- August 29, 2011 at 11:08 am
I refuse to believe that Forrest was never that good to begin with. Shogun has never had injuries severe enough to inhibit his performance, right? (Mark Coleman and Shogun looked like cardio machines in their fight) And Rampage has never shown up out of shape or unmotivated for a fight. Never!
So it isn't like Forrest fought the best fights of his life on nights when his opponents were at their worst. So it must be heart that he is lacking, because uncoordinated and awkward white guys will always have a place at the top of this sport.