Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, May 26, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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Forrest Griffin is known for many things. He’s a self-deprecating character, a stop-at-nothing fighter and, as he’ll gladly point out, a best-selling author.
UFC President Dana White recently learned about another side of the 33-year-old Griffin — the kind-hearted humanitarian. White and the UFC brass were touring a local charity that provides meals to underprivileged children when the directors started telling them about everything Griffin provides.
“He goes there once a month and he cooks food, he packs lunches and does whatever they need around there,” White said. “Then, they said when he leaves, he writes a check. That’s who Forrest Griffin is.”
The Las Vegas-based former UFC light heavyweight champion will have more time for those efforts going forward. Before the beginning of the UFC 160 post-fight press conference Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Griffin announced his retirement from fighting.
He’ll be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame this summer as he transitions into a new role within the company. White had few details on what kind of work Griffin would do for the UFC — other than joking, “hopefully he will work more than Chuck Liddell” — but said it would likely be in the charity realm.
“That’s something I always wanted to pursue,” Griffin said. “It’s the thing we all say we’re going to do. I’ve always said I’m going to be a better person, I’m going to volunteer. I’m going to do this and do that, but I’ve got to train for this fight now and I’ll do it later. Now it’s later and that’s something I’d like to do.”
Griffin accomplished all he set out to and more in mixed martial arts after leaving a job as a police officer in Georgia to fight professionally a decade ago. Griffin won the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” by beating Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decision in the finale.
It’s a bout that’s still considered the best and most important fight in UFC history because it convinced White and the Fertittas not to sell the fledging company. Griffin regarded it as his favorite memory, even ahead of winning the 205-pound division’s championship belt with a unanimous-decision victory over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86 three years later.
Griffin slowed down after the win, going 3-3 in his final six bouts including a controversial unanimous-decision win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 148 last July. White urged Griffin to join Ortiz in retirement after the fight, but he wanted to prolong his career.
Griffin was set to face Phil Davis, and originally Chael Sonnen, at UFC 155 but pulled out with a knee injury.
“The biggest thing I learned is that when Dana says retire, you should retire,” Griffin joked. “Otherwise, you will blow your knee out before your next fight.”
Griffin still figured he would make a comeback. It wasn’t until he watched the Fight of the Year candidate between Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV 8 two months ago that he began to develop some doubts.
“I thought, ‘If I don’t have one of those in me, there’s no point in doing this anymore,’” Griffin said. “If you can’t put out a product like that — I never really care about winning, losing — then don’t put the product out there at all if it’s going to be subpar.”
Griffin officially bows out of MMA with a professional record of 19-7, including a 10-5 mark inside the UFC. He had seven wins by submission, including a stunning upset of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as a 5-to-1 underdog in 2007 that propelled him to the bout with Jackson.
White played a highlight reel of Griffin’s career complete with a couple sound bites from over the years that illustrate his attitude.
“I never said I was that good or that pretty, but I make it exciting,” Griffin said in the video. “What more can you ask for?”
That’s something that earned Griffin universal respect among his peers. The fighters at the press conference gave him a standing ovation as he entered the room.
The gesture was prompted by Griffin’s longtime Xtreme Couture teammate, Mike Pyle. The 37-year old welterweight veteran logged countless time in the gym with Griffin.
“Whenever I had the opportunity to help him or work with him in some of the big fights he’s had, it’s just been amazing,” Pyle reflected. “The heart that he has, I always wanted some of that to rub off on me. Let me get some of that. Any time I have to go to war, that would be the first guy I’d call.”
It certainly looked as if Pyle put to use some Griffin-like determination at UFC 160. After getting knocked down by a first-round haymaker from Rick Story that he said left him disoriented until the middle of the second round, Pyle came back to score an improbable split-decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Griffin watched from cage side, thrilled for his old pal and at peace with knowing he’d never again experience something similar on a personal level.
“This has been my dream since 2000,” Griffin concluded. “This is all I really wanted to do. I don’t know what’s next. I’ll figure it out, though.”