Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar became the latest inductees of the UFC Hall of Fame today, hours before tonight’s UFC 162 event. Here’s a look back at the fight that introduced them to the UFC faithful and kicked off the MMA explosion in 2005.
April 9, 2005. Light heavyweight hopefuls Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar had survived six weeks in the fishbowl of reality television, and now they were one win away from glory, a UFC contract, and a life-altering change to everything they had known previously.
That’s plenty to fight hard for, but Griffin and Bonnar went beyond that in the final of The Ultimate Fighter’s first season, and the ensuing 15 minutes encapsulated the best of what this sport has to offer, and the best of two fighters who fought as if their lives were at stake. If you didn’t walk away from your television set a fan that night, check your pulse. About the only person disappointed with the three round war was the winner.
“I only watched it once,” admitted Griffin. “I guess I kinda had to. It was a hard, a lot of missed opportunities, and a lot of things where you know better. You know you can do this or do that, but you don’t. But the bottom line is I felt like I fought a great first round. I felt like I came out and just started going at it.”
Bonnar eagerly accepted Griffin’s willingness to scrap, and the pattern and pace rarely changed throughout the bout. Griffin took the first round and Bonnar rebounded in the second, leaving his foe bloodied from a cut on the bridge of his nose. Did you expect anything less from Griffin?
“I don’t know, man,” he chuckled. “You need to get popped; you need to get a little bit of something. It helps if you get backed into a corner.”
Backed into a corner by Bonnar’s attack and exhausted by the furious pace of the first ten minutes, Griffin’s chest visibly heaved for any air it could get, but he continued to fight, and the third round became as memorable as the first two, with fans in attendance screaming and a Spike TV television audience growing with each punch and kick.
“I knew it was a good fight when the final bell rang and the crowd was going nuts and yelling for another round,” said Bonnar. “Just looking into the crowd and at everyone’s face, the energy level was so high, I said, ‘it must have been a good one.’”
In the end, even though Griffin got the decision, both he and Bonnar received UFC contracts, and a sport got the jolt it needed. To this day, UFC President Dana White calls the bout the most important in UFC history, and on Saturday, July 6, the two were fittingly inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame together.
Griffin-Bonnar I: A Look Back
A look back at the fight that made the newest members of the UFC Hall of Fame, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar