I got a chance to sit down with the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Shortly after his unanimous decision victory over “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86
Current mood: accomplished
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Griffin: In His Own Words
July 5, 2008 will one day go down in mixed martial arts and UFC history. It was the day an American Dream was realized. The day an unlikely David would slay a massive—but classy—Goliath. It was the day that Forrest Griffin, the original Ultimate Fighter took his rightful place among MMA’s elite fighters, defeating Quentin “Rampage” Jackson to claim the most coveted title in the sport: the UFC light-heavyweight championship.
Though Griffin was clearly the underdog in the fight, he was never totally discounted and to the legions of die hard Griffin supporters, the victory was merely an “I told you so” moment. To Forrest, UFC 86 was just another day at the office. Part of the newly-crowned champions appeal is his unwavering humility, and even though the 29-year-old fighter owns victories over two of the best at 205 (Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua), at the end of the day, he’s the same mild mannered former police officer-turned-fighter from Georgia.
Fight News caught up with the UFC’s newest champion two days after his triumph of epic proportions to get his thoughts on what will arguably be the fight of the year, what keeps him grounded and just how he takes so much damn punishment without breaking.
First and foremost, congratulations on your victory and becoming the UFC Light Heavyweight champion:
It’s been nearly 48 hours since you’re victory, how are you feeling right now?
Has it sunk in that you’re now the number 1 guy at the UFC.
Yeah, it’s sunk in and I know I’m a target.
A lot of people felt that your training sessions with Wanderlei Silva would give you an edge over Rampage, can you talk to me a little about what it was like to train with him?
It definitely helped. He’s a great partner to work with and I look forward to working with him some more.
Have you had a chance to check out the fight yet.
I haven’t watched it yet.
What have people told you about the fight thus far?
I haven’t really asked a whole lot. My corner told me I won, I was pretty happy, I’m still taking everything in.
I want you to take me through a couple of key moments in the fight. Quentin hit you with a good shot in the first round, what was going through your mind after that?
He caught me with a left hook and followed with a right upper cut. I tried to get out of the way of that. It was just a flash and it helped me get the nervousness out of my system.
And round three I believe it was, you had a triangle that almost turned into a power bomb…
I had the leg, I was doing everything right. What I was trying to do was let him lift me to my feet and be able to push away. I had one foot on the ground but it wasn’t enough.
Were you concerned at all that you’d be slammed to the mat?
No, I had the leg.
Going into the fifth, it was obviously a close fight.
I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing and if I saw an opening, take it. I wasn’t trying to force everything.
And after the final bell?
Good. You always wish you had done a little more. He does have a lot of power so I was trying to fight a smart fight. I could’ve done more in the clinch, but he has that power where one punch will change the game.
A lot of people felt like you left everything in the Octagon, other than the clinch, what else do you wish you would’ve done?
I could’ve attempted a couple takedowns. Only on two occasions did I throw a four punch combination. I could’ve done that more but again, you’re standing in front of a power puncher.
What’s next for Forrest Griffin?
Just get healthy and start training again as soon as possible.
Is there anybody that you’re looking to fight?
No. You got the belt, everybody wants it. Everybody comes for you, you don’t have to call anybody out.
What keeps you grounded? I was talking to Kendall Grove and Diego Sanchez and they spoke about letting the money and fame get to them and how it hampered their careers. You on the other hand haven’t let the fame get to you and have improved since winning the show. What keeps you on the straight and narrow?
You know, I’m a Scientologist. That’s helped a lot. No, I’ve always liked the person I was. There was no need to change it.
Is there any aspect of your game that you’re actively looking to improve?
My wrestling is not at all where it needs to be. It’s not that hard to get into but it’s not something that feels fluid in a fight. It’s not like you feel an opening for it. In practice it feels alright, but in a fight, I’ve yet to use it.
I have one final question, and I know that this is on a lot of people’s minds and it’s definitely on mine: you’ve been able to take—and withstand—a lot of punishment in your fights, how do you keep going?
It’s a process, you just keep going. 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.
Once again, congratulations on your victory and taking the time out to speak with FightNews.