Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 1:30 a.m.
If there were a real life Rocky Balboa in the mixed martial arts world, Forrest Griffin would likely be the first choice to fill the role of the fictional boxing champ from Philly.
From his self-deprecating personality to his insane workouts, the only things that seem to be separating the former UFC light heavyweight champ from Sylvester Stallone’s famous character are the dark stocking cap, grey sweat suit and stoic jog up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“No (I’m not Rocky), but I wish I had Rocky’s chin. You can’t knock that guy out if you hit him with a sledgehammer,” joked Griffin (16-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC), who fights MMA pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva at UFC 101 on Aug. 8 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
Indeed to beat the Brazilian version of Balboa’s Russian nemesis Ivan Drago, Griffin knows he is gonna need more than Hollywood magic.
That’s why he’s been training for the three-round bout as if it were a five-round championship fight. He’s brought in a slew of specialized training partners, as well as leaning on the already stacked lineup of his Xtreme Couture’s buddies to try and replicate Silva’s unorthodox style and explosive striking abilities.
“With Anderson, it’s the reach,” Griffin said about the UFC’s 6-foot-2 middleweight champ who has a reach of 77 inches. “You’re worried about the incredible length with both his feet and arms you know.
“You try to simulate some specific situations that I’ve seen him in. Obviously working with southpaws, counter-punchers, some long guys. I haven’t been able to find one guy to be Anderson, but I’ve worked with two, three, five or so different guys that together as an amalgam represent Anderson Silva.”
Or as much as anyone can resemble “The Spider,” (24-4 MMA, 9-0 UFC) who hasn’t lost in nearly five years other than a disqualification coming because of his own illegal kick.
But for all of Silva’s highlight-reel wins (think Rich Franklin enduring those flying knees to the face), the out-of-this-world 185-pounder has looked almost human in his last two wins.
Silva danced around Patrick Côté at UFC 90 before picking up the win by TKO when the Canadian could no longer continue after suffering a leg injury.
Fans were even more upset in Silva’s boring victory over Thales Leites at UFC 97 in Montreal. It was the first time Silva had went the distance in a UFC fight, although the contest was never close with Leites often dropping to his back to try and bait Silva to the ground.
At the time, UFC President Dana White said he was embarrassed by the lack of action, but Silva’s translator, Ed Soares, says he is disappointed the fans placed so much blame on Silva.
“I'm a little bit bummed out about it. The guy goes out there and puts on a show and it's like the other guy doesn't show up to fight. If you're a challenger, you gotta want to go in there and take the belt,” Soares said.
“It's not (Silva's) obligation to fight the other guy's fight."
Griffin said he studied both matches intensely and while there may be a few little hiccups in Silva’s game, there are few criticisms he can make of the champ’s performances.
“He’s going to do what he wants to do. If he’s got a game plan and he knows he’s going to win with it, then he’s going to do that,” Griffin said.
“I don’t think Anderson will be a counterpuncher. I think he will come out and pressure me. I think he wants to make a statement.”
So, too, does Griffin, who said losing his light heavyweight title to Rashad Evans at UFC 92 in December along with facing Silva has fueled him to train harder than ever.
“I promised myself I’m never going to train this hard again. I haven’t had a beer since those fights in Tennessee,” said a somewhat joking Griffin.
“I plan to do a lot more drinking. I just got to make it two more weeks. I plan on eating a lot more bad food, sleep less, drink more. Seriously, I’ve been single-minded. I didn’t get drunk on my birthday; I didn’t get drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Neither Griffin nor Silva thought the weight issue — this is Silva’s second fight at 205 pounds (he knocked out James Irvin a minute into their match last summer at UFC Fight Night 14) — would be much of a factor.
“Forrest traditionally is not really that mobile. He’s more come forward and bang, but his footwork has really gotten great. And he’s got a lot of new tricks he’s using,” said Joey Varner, one of Griffin’s trainers at Xtreme Couture.
“He looks like the best Forrest Griffin I’ve ever scene.”
Few can read Griffin as well as Xtreme Couture’s boxing coach Ron Frazier, who said looking through Griffin’s smirks during recent interviews at Randy Couture’s gym tells him his fighter is completely focused on competing at a special level next Saturday night.
“This guy has a chance to do something very few 205’s could ever even consider, going 3-1 against “Shogun” (Mauricio Rua), “Rampage” (Quinton Jackson) and Rashad,” Frazier said.
“He’s a big-fight fighter and he learned in the Tito (Ortiz) fight he wasn’t just a tough guy, he was a guy who could fight.”
Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.