Griffin not looking past Evans
Story by Anthony Springer Jr
Photo by Chris Cozzone
To whom much is given, much is required.
For current UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, one of the requirements of being the top dog in the UFC’s toughest division is dealing with the press. It’s not the Griffin hates the media, but there’s a sense that time spent promoting fights is time away from training for the actual fight. And for the champion, his next opponent is one of the most dangerous that he’s faced.
On paper, Rashad Evans isn’t as feared as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, but that doesn’t mean Griffin is looking past this fight. Evans already owned a highlight reel knockout victory over Sean Salmon, but when he put Chuck Liddell to sleep with a monstrous overhand right, the world stood still—and then stood at attention.
Forrest Griffin was among those surprised.
“Damn,” Griffin said when asked about his thoughts on Evans’ knockout of Liddell. “I said damn. There may have been some more expletives, but mainly damn.”
Griffin is short with his words at times, self deprecating in other situations, but always humble. It may be the latter factor that endears the champion to millions of fans across the country. You’d be hard pressed to get the former police officer to brag about himself or his accomplishments; and he’s got a bit to brag about. UFC president Dana White credits Griffin’s matchup with Stephan Bonnar as a bout that saved the organization. The importance of the bout, however, is either lost on Griffin, or he simply refers not to go into a state of reflection at this point in his career.
“It’s just a fight to me,” Griffin said of his match with Bonnar. “It was obviously a very hard fight and important for me, but there’s no point in me analyzing it any further.”
Since then, Griffin has gone 6-2 inside the Octagon and plowed an extremely tough road to the top of the heap. Griffin rebounded from a 2006 loss to Keith Jardine to defeat Hector Ramirez, Mauricio Rua and “Rampage” Jackson—the latter two men believed at one time to be the top two light heavyweights in the world
Griffin’s standing in the UFC is the result of one part relentless work ethic in the gym, and one part self preservation. The ability to take punishment is one of many factors that make the top 205er a hard man to put down. “It’s a process, you just keep going,” he says of getting beat up in the Octagon. “If somebody catches a knee, it’s going to be a four month layoff, if a submission is too much and I think something is going to break, I’ll tap. Chokes, you leave it up to yourself. If you get hit too hard your body just shuts off. I don’t worry about it. Self preservation is when it hits you. You try to protect yourself and fight back.”
The mentality of self preservation—and thus, self defense—allow to Griffin to maintain focus on the fight in front of him. Undoubtedly, it’s hard being the top dog, so Forrest works harder in the gym than most, to avoid the feeling of defeat. “I feel like Little Red Riding Hood walking through the woods and all these wolves want to eat me up,” he says of the light heavyweight division. Though he takes on Evans just two days after Christmas, the hunted will not be resting on his laurels to enjoy the holiday spirit.
“I don’t really like the holidays anyway,” Griffin said.