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Forrest Griffin: “Tito [Ortiz] Was Jon Jones Before There Was A Jon Jones”

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz are two cornerstones of the organization and both men deserve a lot of credit for lifting the company to new heights. Ortiz was the man who put the UFC on his back in the years the sport wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today and Griffin along with Stephan Bonnar put on the fight for the ages during The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale and ushered in a whole new generation of fans. As the two men prepare to meet for the third time at UFC 148 on July 7th fans will see the end of one era and watch as another closes in on its finality as well. This will be the 26th and last time we will see Ortiz enter and leave the Octagon and it couldn’t be against a better opponent in Griffin.

Although he is only 32-years-old, Griffin has been through so many wars and had has delighted fans all over the world with his go for broke style. It is that same style that will ultimately cut his career shorter than it could’ve been, but it’s his reckless abandon and fearless nature that has endeared Griffin to so many. When Griffin began his career in the UFC there aren’t too many people who thought he would’ve reached the heights he has. Not only has he helped the UFC sell pay-per-views and in the process made himself a ton of money, he also captured the light heavyweight championship against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at a time when Rampage was a monster and coming off of wins against Dan Henderson and Chuck Liddell.

Griffin is also very popular for his self deprecating humor and his penchant for saying anything and everything that is on his mind. Has he had some embarrassing moments? Of course he has, after losing to Keith Jardine, Griffin was so upset he cried in the cage and after being toyed with by UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva at UFC 101 in August of 2009, Griffin sprinted from the cage and never really spoke of the loss. Those are just two moments in what has been a great seven year run in the UFC. He’s a proud man and hates to lose, sue him if he took those losses hard, no one knows what goes on in the mind of another man and for anyone criticize him for his action, they are making assumptions and we all know what happens when we make assumptions. Griffin is normally quiet, but I happened to catch him at a time where he simply felt like talking.

“This Tito fight is what it is, it’s his last fight,” Griffin told FightLine.com. “Tito was Jon Jones before there was a Jon Jones. He was Chuck Liddell before there was a Chuck Liddell. I don’t know what the future holds for me because I won’t look past Tito, but when this fight is over I will sit down and assess what I want to do. There are some fights out there that do get me excited. I like what Matt Hughes is doing, he picks the fights that he thinks he can win and does it on his own terms. I want to fight on my own terms, I’m on the other side of the fence now and don’t see myself fighting these younger guys like Alexander Gustaffson.”

Griffin still has not gotten used to all the attention he receives. There are times when people believe he is being rude, but in actuality it is just Griffin being Griffin. He likes his privacy, but knows that there are certain obligations that come with being a UFC fighter. With that being said, he is grateful for everything the sport has brought to him.

“I really don’t know how I want to be remembered when my fighting days are over,” Griffin admitted. “It’s an honor if people do remember me at all. For now I will keep fighting as long as my body holds up and I can keep doing it. No one wants to stop fighting and have to get a real job, especially me! Fighters want to fight forever, when people retire they wind up dying! When I first started fighting I just wanted to make enough money so I wouldn’t have to work. I never thought I’d wind up a UFC champion, maybe in some distant dream I did, but I never imagined it would really happen.”

His last fight took place at UFC 134 against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Brazil. It was a rematch of their classic bout that Griffin won when he choked out the debuting Pride superstar at UFC 76 in September of 2007. This time around Griffin didn’t fare as well as he did in their first meeting losing via knockout at 1:53 of the first round. He refuses to make excuses, but his wife was due to give birth any day and being so far away had to weigh on the usually laid back Georgia native.

“It wasn’t an easy fight to prepare for knowing I was going to be so far away from my wife,” Griffin said. “I’m not making excuses because I could’ve turned the fight down, but that’s not my style. I hated being that far away from my wife when she was so close to giving birth. As soon as that fight ended, Dana had me on the jet on my way back to Las Vegas. I was in the hospital still wearing the shorts I fought in, but I made it there in time and saw my daughter being born.”

So as the end nears for Griffin it’s time to really think about what lies ahead for him in the future. It would be safe to assume that he has a job with Zuffa for life. Between the fight with Bonnar and his willingness to fight anyone at anytime, White has expressed his fondness for Griffin every opportunity he gets. Griffin has an idea of what he would like to do and although he explains it in his own style and adds humor to the story, he is serious about what he wants to do.

“I’ve gotten really good at spending other people’s money,” joked the Xtreme Couture staple. “I was lucky enough to spend some time with a 14 year old boy who was sick. The UFC set him up with some tickets for one of my fights and I took some pictures with him. Unfortunately he died when he was 15. When the father called to tell me the news I was on the verge of tears. I really want to help those less fortunate, I want to help feed the hungry both young and old. I want to help convince others to lend their time and money to charity. I’ve done some work with the Make a Wish Foundation and I really enjoy working with little kids. I can totally see myself working in that type of capacity, working with the UFC and making a difference in other peoples’ lives.”

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