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UFC 92: Forrest Griffin on Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva and Making Money

Before he got his shot on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin says, "I was making $26,000 a year as a cop. My goal was to make $26,000 a year as a fighter."

Griffin has made a whole lot more than that. He earned the six-figure contract that went with becoming the first Ultimate Fighter winner, and he now makes seven figures as the UFC light heavyweight champion. Not bad for a guy who says of his first professional MMA fight, against Dan Severn, "I was supposed to make $250 but I only ended up getting $200."

When I talked to Griffin last week about his upcoming title fight with Rashad Evans at UFC 92, the subject kept coming back to money -- and how surprised Griffin was that he's making a lot of it for doing something he loves. I told Griffin that a boxer whose fights draw hundreds of thousands of pay-per-view customers would be making a lot more money than Griffin made for his fight with Rampage Jackson or will make for his fight with Evans. But Griffin said that doesn't bother him.

"The sport's at a different place," Griffin said of comparing MMA to boxing. "You can think of it that way, or you can think that when I'm working out at Xtreme Couture, there's a roomful of guys who are pretty close in talent to myself who don't have nearly what I have. I'm very fortunate to make what I make."

And if anything, Griffin thinks the stars like himself might make too much money, at least compared to the UFC undercard fighters, who sometimes make just a few thousand bucks a fight.

"I would like to see it be more level," Griffin said. "The top guys make a ton and everyone else doesn't. But they're getting an opportunity."

An opportunity is all Griffin has asked for in the UFC, where he has pulled off upset wins in his last two fights, against Rampage and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. But when I asked him if his status as an underdog in those fights indicates that he wasn't getting enough credit, he was blunt: "No, I think maybe I get too much credit now. And anyway, I don't gamble so I don't really give a s**t about the odds."

Griffin is the favorite against Evans, but he's not so sure that he should be. Griffin says Evans is going to give him a very difficult challenge.

"He's extremely explosive, he's quick, he's got great knockout power in his hands and feet, and he's a real good wrestler," Griffin said of Evans.

And as I talked to Griffin about his own strengths as a fighter, he was more interested in talking about his limitations. I asked him if he thinks he deserves to be considered among the sport's truly elite fighters, like Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko, and he answered, "F**k no. They fight better. They finish fights. They've got a lot broader range of talent and skills."

The fighter who may impress Griffin the most, though, is Wanderlei Silva, who will fight Rampage on the UFC 92 undercard. Griffin expects Silva to win that fight.

"I think Wanderlei is a bad man and Wanderlei will get him," Griffin said. "I'm not great at calling fights but that's my honest opinion."

Griffin wouldn't touch the subject of Rampage's arrest and otherwise bizarre behavior shortly after the two of them fought in July, other than to say, "If it doesn't directly affect me, I don't give a f**k." But he raved about Silva, with whom he sometimes spars.

"He's a good training partner and we're becoming better friends because his English is getting better," Griffin said of Silva. "I've got nothing bad to say about Wanderlei. He will never get tired of punching you. There's just no break in him. I think of myself as someone who's willing to do as much as anyone, but he's the one guy who might do more. That's a bad dude. He's hard to put out. If he was a video game, he'd have no life bar. You've got a life bar that goes down but his life bar doesn't go down. That's why I like watching him fight."

So if Griffin beats Evans and Silva beats Rampage, will we see Griffin vs. Silva some time in 2009?

"It would be great," Griffin said. "If it's for the right money or a belt, I'll fight anyone."

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