He's no Gump

O, BY THE WAY

UFC champ Forrest Griffin defies stereotypes

On mixed martial arts

July 17, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

After the UFC light-heavyweight championship fight between defending titleholder Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and challenger Forrest Griffin on July 5, Griffin sent entreaties heavenward that the judges would see the fight his way. He had tried to keep Jackson, a slugger, off balance in their five-round mixed martial arts fight and dominated the second round, pounding Jackson relentlessly with fists and elbows while the two were on the mat.

"Please, please, please," was the prayer Griffin repeated as he anxiously awaited the judges' decisions.

The 26-year-old's entreaty was answered with a unanimous decision that some observers thought could have gone either way. Even Griffin, the new titleholder, said he wasn't sure.

Well, if Griffin got a little bit lucky that night, the UFC can be just as thankful the decision went the way it did and the University of Georgia graduate who hails from Augusta is one of its champions.

It turns out Jackson gave a new, unflattering slant to his nickname when he was arrested Tuesday in California for erratic driving in a police chase that included a number of collisions and ended with the fighter's pickup truck on the sidewalk.

The UFC ought to be relieved that Griffin, who graduated with a double major in political science and criminal justice and, in a curious twist, worked as a law-enforcement officer for a sheriff's office in his home state, is its latest champion.

He appears to be a levelheaded guy with a wry sense of humor and a dedication to his craft, brutal as some believe it to be. Here are some of his best one-liners from several interviews after the fight.

On being the light-heavyweight champion: "It's the oxymoron division ... I'm the champion of the oxymorons."

On trying to improve as a fighter: "You either get better or die."

On how many stitches were required to close cuts above and below his right eye: "All of them."

On comparing himself with other UFC fighters: "Every other champion, but me, is terrifying. I'm just a dude trying to put it together."

In talking about the fight with Jackson the day after, and on just a couple of hours sleep, Griffin examined the second round, in which he had the defending champion on the floor but couldn't get the leverage to deliver a knockout shot.

"I tried to do a little incremental damage and win the round instead of going for the kill," he explained.

In discussing his decision to stay in Las Vegas after his appearance on the UFC reality TV show in 2004, he said, "This was the epicenter of fighting ... so I just stayed here."

With turns of phrases such as "incremental damage" and "epicenter of fighting," Griffin dispels the stereotype of the inarticulate pug.

With his crazy smash-up chase this week, Jackson unfortunately reinforced some perceptions about out-of-control athletes.

Guess which one the UFC is glad wears the light-heavyweight championship belt right now?

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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