Forrest Griffin Sets His Sight on Rio

June 20, 2011
Dana White has always maintained the utmost respect for the history of the UFC, but at the press conference for UFC 134 on Thursday afternoon, the UFC President chose to see the event -- scheduled for Saturday, August 27 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro -- as less of a return to Brazil for the first time since 1998 and more of a beginning.

"As far as I'm concerned," White said, "this is the first time we've ever been to Brazil, because it's the first time we've been here since we've [Zuffa] owned it, and I guarantee you, the people of Brazil are going to see the best live sporting event they've ever seen."

With the UFC President seeing UFC 134 as the start of something, it's only fitting that the card will include someone who's no stranger to beginnings: Forrest Griffin.

After helping launch the UFC's meteoric rise with his victory over Stephan Bonnar in the light heavyweight final of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion is well qualified for a spot on the card as the Zuffa-owned UFC makes its first trip to what White referred to on Thursday as the place "where mixed martial arts started."

"I say it all the time," White said. "We are what we are today because of that fight that happened at the finale of Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, one of the biggest wars ever on free television."

That fight -- along with the offbeat personality that has been channeled into two books, Got Fight? and Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down -- has helped make Griffin one of the UFC's most popular fighters, but that might not be the case at UFC 134 when he takes on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Fighting against a Brazilian in his home country, Forrest isn't expecting to hear many cheers, but based on his comments on Thursday, he doesn't particularly care.

"I'm kind of looking forward to it," Griffin said. "Any time you go into a fight, it's just a fight. It's a hostile environment. Once you get into a cage, there's really not a lot going on [outside]."

As with the UFC itself, Brazil plays an important role in Griffin's early history. His last fight before becoming part of the first cast of The Ultimate Fighter was against Edson Silva in Natal, Brazil, where Forrest famously had his arm broken before knocking out his foe with the other arm. Griffin's return to Brazil won't see a return engagement, but he will be facing a familiar foe in Shogun. It was in 2007 that Griffin submitted Shogun, earning his shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. But as Mark Coleman and Lyoto Machida could tell you first hand, no man has beaten Rua twice. Rua intends to go three for three.

"I believe MMA is a sport that's in constant evolution," Rua said, "and I believe that we train according to our adversary, and not as if it were just any other fight. I train according to my opponent. For sure, Forrest is an excellent guy, but I hope to put my game in practice and to win this fight."

Having faced Shogun in his UFC debut, Griffin is expecting a more comfortable Rua six fights later, particularly fighting in front of his countrymen in Rio.

"I'm honored to get to fight him down here," Griffin said. "I thought the first fight was great fight from a fan's perspective, and I thought it was a good fight up until the end. He's changed a lot. He's got a lot of fights since that fight. Now, it's kind of like this is my first fight in Rio, so the advantages I had in the first one, he's got in the second, so it all works out."

Photo: Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images