Photo of Forrest Griffin by Esther Lin via MMAFighting.com.
Win or lose, Tito Ortiz will retire from the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) following his trilogy completing showdown against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148: "Silva vs. Sonnen 2" on Sat., July 7, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. There's a sort of comfort in that, knowing that no matter the outcome, it's all over once that final horn sounds.
But what about Griffin?
By fight night, Forrest will be 33-years-old and once the bout is over, he will have taken part in 26 professional fights in his career, dating all the way back to Oct. 2001 and his debut against Dan Severn, of all people.
That's a lot of training camps and a ton of wear and tear on his body, even if it's incredibly fit by most standards. You won't find anyone quick to call Griffin an athlete but there's no denying the shape he's kept his body in. To compete at this high a level, it's a necessity.
The problem, of course, is deciding the right time to stop. That goes double in combat sports, where staying in too long can mean the difference between thinking coherently and being unable to speak clearly.
For his part, Griffin tells ESPN he's not entirely sure when he's leaving the game but it won't be too much longer.
"I don't know. It's not going to be a long time. I don't foresee the huge comeback. I worked out with that (Alexander) Gustafsson kid. Young guys, man. I'm old now. I like what Rich Franklin has done, there's still a lot of guys I can beat -- but I don't know how many of those guys are in the Top 10. I'm still, I'd say, one of the Top 25 guys in the world at 205 pounds; problem is I keep fighting the top 5-to-10 guys in the world."
Griffin is a unique case in that he's done nothing but build up good will for himself. He's done favors for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and he's one half of the most famous fight in company history.
No one is pushing him out the door and the decision is likely always going to be his and his alone.
That's why it's refreshing to read that he's not kidding himself regarding his natural abilities. Whereas Ortiz maintains to this day that if he had just stayed healthy he could hang with current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Griffin readily admits he's having trouble keeping up with the younger stars coming up in the sport.
If Gustafsson gave him trouble, imagine what "Bones" could do. Scary.
Still, Griffin has a great deal of value. Later in the same ESPN interview, he's asked if he would allow himself to be cast in the role of fading veteran who still has name value and is a tough out taking on game up-and-coming potential star. Again, he was surprisingly fresh in his reply:
"Probably. Yeah, why not? I'm game. I'm going to pick my fights wisely, but at the same time -- yeah. I'd be an accomplishment for a guy. I don't know, it's tough. I can think about that in two weeks."
No illusions of grandeur and no excuses for past poor performances. What more could we -- or the UFC -- possibly ask for?