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Griffin hopes to slay 'The Spider'

Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photo by Chris Cozzone

If you’ve spent any time with Forrest Griffin [16-5] lately, he does not come off like a man getting ready for the biggest fight of his career. And though many fighters say their upcoming fight is the biggest fight of their career, Griffin’s upcoming fight at UFC 101 against Anderson “The Spider” Silva is the biggest of his short, but storied career.

And that says a lot.

Griffin first made headlines during the inaugural season of the UFC’s run away reality hit, The Ultimate Fighter. At the time, Griffin was a little known fighter who had dreams of a normal life. The self deprecating former police officer battled his way to the season finale en route to capturing the hearts and minds of millions of Americans with a wild 15 minute slug fest with Stephan Bonnar.

Dana White regularly credits the fight with saving the company.

The rise of the organization’s first Ultimate Fighter is as much about Griffin as it is about the timely reality show. While many on the Internet openly mocked the reality show format, Griffin proved—time and time again—that he was no less of a fighter simply because a television camera captured his rise to fame. Griffin—and by extension, The Ultimate Fighter—were given legitimacy after the Georgia native choked out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 76.

Defying the odds again at UFC 86, Griffin claimed the coveted UFC light heavyweight title following a unanimous decision win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

With victories over two of the worlds best at 205, why exactly is the upcoming super fight with “The Spider” Griffin’s biggest to date?

The answer lies in the statistics.

Silva boasts an impressive 9-0 record inside the Octagon. He ran former middle weight king Rich Franklin out of the 185-pound division with two impressive—and one sided—beatings and dismantled a future hall of famer in Dan Henderson. To paraphrase Roy Jones Jr., it’s not that Silva hasn’t fought anybody; he just makes his opponents look like nobodies.

The dominant performances from Silva have not gone unnoticed by Griffin, who praised his opponent’s confidence and ability to stick to fight game plans.

“Even when Dan Henderson’s trying to maul him up against the fence, he’s completely composed, just relaxed, just not wasting any energy, just moving and actually waiting for his opening,” Griffin said of the middleweight champion.

While Griffin is quick to offer praise, he also shows that he knows what not to do in a match against his upcoming adversary.

“What you can’t do is be a big, slow guy that follows him around and be too aggressive about trying to attack him,” Griffin added. “You've got to come in smart and just try to land punches, not big ones; little ones…Just make contact and stay as loose and relaxed as he does.”

Staying loose and relaxed is no major obstacle for Forrest Griffin. His voice carries a casual tone that defies the mountainous task in front of him. It is perhaps that carefree attitude that has taken him to the heights of the sport’s toughest division.

And it is that same care-free attitude that allows Griffin to take life—as well as fighting—in stride.

In June, Griffin released Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat. The title contains several stories, told only the way Forrest Griffin can tell a story. The book lacks a conclusion, and the story behind that may very well make it into Forrest next book.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever done a book before,” Griffin said to me when asked about the missing conclusion, “but [publishers] are pretty serious about deadlines.”

Though Griffin’s career as an accomplished author may hinge on his adherence to deadlines, you will never catch the former light heavyweight champion slacking off in the gym. Anderson Silva is clearly the favorite going into this fight, which is precisely why Forrest Griffin is a dangerous opponent. He’s played the role of spoiler twice, and ironically faltered in his last bout when he was favored to defeat Rashad Evans.

Clearly, the underdog Forrest is the best Forrest Griffin to step in the ring.

“I like being the underdog,” Griffin said.

Come Saturday, he’ll take his favored to lose status into the Octagon and—like his bouts with Hua and Jackson—attempt to prove that lightening can strike the UFC three times.

 


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