These are a few of the phrases used by cnnsi.com's mixed martial arts analyst Ben Fowlkes to describe Evans native Forrest Griffin:
- "If you're not a Forrest Griffin fan by now, you have no heart."
- "Griffin is equal parts class and grit."
- "It is impossible not to like the guy after Saturday night."
The comments came on the heels of Griffin's unanimous win Nov. 21 over MMA legend Tito Ortiz at UFC 106. The Ortiz-Griffin rematch became the main event of the evening when the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was unable to fight Shane Corwin because an illness.
After the Griffin-Ortiz match was thrust from being from co-headliner to the main event, all eyes shifted to a rematch of one of the sport's villains (Ortiz) and arguably the most-beloved fighter in the UFC (Griffin).
The former Evans Knights football player has won over fans with his all-out style in the ring and his matter-of-fact approach during interviews. When Griffin is not poking fun at others, he is usually poking fun at himself. Couple that with the fact that he gets in the ring and is not afraid to take a shot, and you have someone fans will flock to.
Of course, Griffin burst on the scene by winning Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. The championship bout is regarded by many, including UFC boss Dana White, as the most important fight in UFC history. In that fight Griffin and his opponent, Stephen Bonner, went toe to toe for three rounds, and with both fighters battered and bloody, Griffin's hand was raised as the winner.
Since then, Griffin has become a much more well-rounded fighter, and has captured some huge victories. He stunned the MMA world with his submission win over Shogun Rua. At the time, many felt Rua was the best 205-pound fighter in the world. Griffin also took advantage of his first title shot when he defeated heavily favored Quinton Rampage Jackson thanks to numerous devastating kicks that left Jackson limping for weeks after the fight.
Griffin reveled in the role of underdog and his fans continue to eat it up, though his career has had its setbacks. He suffered a knockout loss to Rashad Evans in his first title defense, and Welterweight Champion Anderson Silva overwhelmed him.
Those two losses put Griffin in a must-win situation, so choosing to fight Tito Ortiz on Nov. 21 was a big risk. Ortiz defeated Griffin in April 2006, and was making a long-awaited return to the UFC. The loss in 2006 was controversial, though, as many felt Griffin had done enough to earn the victory. Ortiz blamed the close fight on injuries and vowed to knock Griffin out this time around.
Early on, it looked as if Ortiz might do just that. He used his takedowns and wrestling to take the early lead in the fight. However, just as he has done throughout his career, Griffin battled back. Fighting as if his life depended on it, Griffin used a barrage of power punches to dominate Ortiz in rounds two and three to earn a popular victory.
He earned plenty of cash. Griffin took home $250,000, which included a $100,000 bonus for winning the fight. That purse is a far cry from the $16,000 he earned in the duo's first fight. In that matchup Ortiz took home $200,000.
Griffin has earned much more than a win and cash with his performance. He added more fans to his already huge following. Griffin does the area proud every time he steps in the ring. He is one of the hardest-working fighters in a sport known for hard workers. He says what in on his mind, which is refreshing in today's sports world. And he shows his opponents respect before and after his fights.
Therefore, I side with Ben Fowlkes: If you are not a Griffin fan, you need to get on the bandwagon, because he is someone all of Columbia County should be proud of.
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