Posting a remembrance of their 2005 battle that helped launch the UFC into the mainstream, Griffin reacted to the death of Bonnar, a fighter he’ll forever be tied to.
“Stephan was a lot of things: He was always the most interesting person in the room, he had the biggest heart and most importantly, he was my friend,” Griffin wrote. “I always loved it that people got excited when they found out we were really friends. I’ll always miss you, brother.”
Stephan was a lot of things: He was always the most interesting person in the room, he had the biggest heart and most importantly, he was my friend. I always loved it that people got excited when they found out we were really friends. I’ll always miss you, brother. https://t.co/lXuMgRgaJV— Forrest Griffin (@ForrestGriffin) December 28, 2022
Bonnar died on Dec. 22 at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas. The official cause of his death is pending; the UFC announced this past Saturday that he died of “presumed heart complications while at work.”
Tributes to Bonnar immediately poured in and included some of the biggest names in the sport, who thanked him for his contributions inside the octagon. UFC President Dana White called Bonnar a “legend” in a brief tribute.
Griffin bested Bonnar via decision in their 2005 slugfest but both received UFC contracts from White, who later said their bout got the promotion a TV deal after it purchased airtime for The Ultimate Fighter as a last-ditch effort at success. The light heavyweights would meet one year later and Griffin would earn another decision win; he later won the UFC light heavyweight title. Bonnar faced a bevy of future and former champions and earned an 8-7 UFC record.
Bonnar said he was on good terms with the promotion until a positive steroid test sullied his 2012 loss to Anderson Silva, which marked his final octagon appearance. After retiring in 2013, Griffin went to work for the UFC, taking a role behind the scenes in operations before helping to spearhead the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
When Griffin and Bonnar were both inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, Bonnar said of his friend, “If there was anyone that I could have picked to lose that fight to, it would have been Forrest Griffin. As painful as it was to lose that fight, I was so happy for him, because he’s a great guy, and – love you, man.”