Back in August, UFC president Dana White had pointed words for two former world champions, as he said Matt Hughes and Forrest Griffin should consider retirement. At least one of the ex-titleholders isn't taking his boss's words personally. On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Griffin, the former light heavyweight champion, told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani that he saw White's words as a motivational tool.
"I took it as my own personal ‘Do you want to be a f---- fighter?' speech," Griffin said.
The way Griffin figures it, his knack for straight talk has been misinterpreted.
Since defeating Quinton "Rampage" Jackson for the title at UFC 86, the Las Vegas resident is 3-3 in the Octagon. Rather than sugarcoat things and say he plans on another run at the title, Griffin is more comfortable calling it like he sees it: Another title run might not be in his future, but he can still fight.
"That's the problem with being a realist," Griffin said. "People don't want that s---. They want you to say ‘I'm the best ever.' My wife summed it up best for me. She said, ‘You ever hear one of those movie stars on the late night say ‘It's a pretty good movie. It's not the best movie out there right now, but it's a pretty good movie.' You know? Nobody goes, ‘I'm a top 10 fighter. Well, maybe Top 15. I can beat a lot of guys.' ... Nobody ever says that. That's the thing with having a grasp on reality. I know I'm not the best."
Indeed, just weeks after White blurted out his desire to see Griffin retire, the UFC came to Griffin and offered him a bout against Chael Sonnen, which is expected to go down on Dec. 29 but hasn't yet been officially announced.
"Chael asked for it, from my understanding," Griffin said. "He asked for it. I think I was the first one to pop and and say ‘sure.' I didn't even say ‘sure,' I said ‘When. When and where?'"
The bout with Sonnen is a rematch. The two first met in 2003, in the first round of a one-night tournament in Colorado ultimately won by Renato Sobral. Griffin defeated Sonnen via first-round triangle choke, though he claimed not to understand what it meant when Sonnen was billed as a wrestler.
"I thought wrestling was the stuff where people jumped off ropes," Griffin said. "So that was my experience with wrestling. He's a wrestler. Is he going to, like, flying elbow me? Is he going to do an atomic bomb drop or something?"
Nine years later, Griffin thinks Sonnen's style remains a solid matchup.
"I think its stylistically a good matchup for me," he said. "I honestly, the thing that's been getting me in trouble are guys that are quicker than me and beating me to the punch with something I don't see coming. That's the problem I've had recently."
Of course, Sonnen knows a lot can happen between now and fight day. He nearly lost out on the fight date when Sonnen was offered a short-notice bout against Jon Jones, one which Jones turned down.
"He kind of runs around saying, ‘Hey, I want to fight you, I want to fight you, I want to fight you,'" Griffin said. "If something comes up, I'll fight whoever on Dec. 29. That's not true, I won't fight whoever. I'm actually keeping a laundry list of people I want to fight and people I don't want to fight."
Griffin quickly added "I'm not going to divulge who's on what list."
So as Griffin gets down to business -- Monday marked the start of his 12 weeks of fight prep -- he's back to doing the only thing he knows how, whether or not White still wants him around.
"I just love fighting," Griffin said. "I know I'm not the best, but I'm still pretty good, there's a lot of people I can still beat. What do you do. What else am I supposed to do? I have no other skills. I enjoy doing this. There's nothing I'd really rather do, you know?"