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?