Opinion: The Retirements of Bonnar and Griffin
By Jesse Heitz
A few days ago, one of the UFC’s most beloved fighters decided to hang his gloves up once and for all, that fighter is the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Forrest Griffin. Now, in a little over half a year, both Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, who retired last October, have made their official exits from MMA’s grandest stage.
In an article recently published by the USA Today, an emotional Dana White, in a type of emotion we seldom ever see exhibited by him, praised the in-cage career of Forrest Griffin at the UFC 160 post-event press conference, and discussed his future with the company by stating,
“Forrest Griffin has been a huge star for us. Anything we’ve ever asked of Forrest Griffin, he has done. Every time Forrest Griffin has stepped foot in the octagon, he gave everything he has.”
I know this isn’t how promoters are supposed to talk, but I care about these guys, and I don’t want to see any of them get hurt. It’s not worth it.”
“He is staying with the UFC. He will have some role, some title … and he will stay with this company at least for the rest of my life.”
Griffin kept things a little more upbeat, stating at the same press conference, and reported on by Sherdog, stating,
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that when Dana White says retire, you should retire. Two of my last three fights, I’ve pulled out due to injury. If you think about it, how many fights can you pull out of before you become an unsecure product?” Griffin asked. “The UFC does a lot of charity stuff locally and for the troops. I’ve always said that I’m going to volunteer, but I’ve always had to train for [a] fight, so I [said I would] do it later. Well, now is later.”
While Griffin is only 33 years old, I suppose many fight fans knew for quite some time that his days as an active competitor were numbered. For several years, he’s battled a successive line of serious injuries, particularly for a professional fighter, that very well could have halted his career much sooner.
However, it’s rather sad to see a man such as Griffin retire. He was the epitome of the underdog. He wasn’t supposed to win the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. He wasn’t supposed to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, at the time overwhelmingly considered to be the most dangerous light heavyweight in the world. He wasn’t supposed to beat Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the title the following year either.
I doubt we’ll ever see a fighter with the rare combination of intestinal fortitude and fan-generating wit, such as Forrest Griffin ever grace the confines of The Octagon. Now both of the men who put on arguably MMA’s greatest fight, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season One Finale back in 2005, and by Dana White’s own words were the veritable saviors of the UFC, are enjoying a life free of black eyes and stitches, hopefully.
It’s tough to see them both go, as they were MMA’s statesmen for the era when the sport rose from the ashes and began its rocket-like trajectory towards the mainstream. Both of these men, for their incredible contributions to the sport, will be inducted together into the UFC Hall of Fame, a much deserved honor.