At Ultimate Fighting Championship 148 in Las Vegas on Saturday, while most people were focused on the fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, many in Columbia County were anticipating the co-main event between Tito Ortiz and Evans native Forrest Griffin.
This was the third bout between the two fighters, who split the previous match-ups. This fight would decide the long-running debate between the two over who the better fighter was. Also, Ortiz called it quits after the fight, retiring after 15 years as the UFC bad boy.
The brash Ortiz at one point even left the UFC because of a feud with the organization’s president, Dana White. Both fighters are former light heavyweight champions, which is easily the sport’s toughest weight class.
While the fight was not Griffin’s best work (he was knocked down twice), the 33-year-old did enough to earn a unanimous decision from the judges. He improved to 19-7 for his career, and more importantly, he ruined the retirement celebration for his arch-nemesis Ortiz, a man who has verbally blasted Griffin at every opportunity.
Now Ortiz, who holds the record for most UFC bouts, goes out losing to a man he claims to be far superior to – which can’t sit well with the man known as “the Huntington Beach Bad Boy.”
Despite Griffin’s victory, some are calling for his retirement after what was deemed a lackluster performance by many writers. I highly doubt that will happen. Granted, Griffin may be past his prime and has already earned plenty of money, but he is still one of the UFC’s more popular fighters with fans and has won three of his last four fights, including a victory over Rich Franklin. In the last five years Griffin has beaten Ortiz twice, along with Franklin, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. In that timeframe his only losses have come to Anderson Silva, Rua and Rashad Evans. Silva is the greatest fighter in UFC history, Rua is regarded as the second-best 205-pound fighter in the world, and Evans has a 17-2 career record.
So it is not like Griffin is losing to a bunch of bums. Will he ever be champion again? Highly unlikely. But can he still put on a good show for fans and beat quality opponents? Certainly. The man who once played football for Evans High School has carved out a nice career for himself and deserves a big “thank you” from everyone associated with the UFC. His epic fight with Stephan Bonner at the conclusion of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter brought the UFC a mainstream audience.
White has said countless times that it is the biggest fight in the organization’s history. Other fighters have seen their wallets fatten because of the fight, and the writers now calling for Griffin’s retirement have paying jobs thanks, in large part, to him.
I am not saying he has had a Tiger Woods-like effect on the UFC, but he is easily one of the UFC’s most important figures and is a future Hall of Famer.
“Future” is the key word because I think there are still a few more good fights in Forrest Griffin.