It’s been called the most important fight in UFC history. And for that matter, it may be the most important fight in MMA history in terms of opening the floodgates for the sport to reach a wider audience.
A week from today, Forrest Griffin (19-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) and Stephan Bonnar (15-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC) will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, and they’ll go in largely on the strength of their first fight in 2005.
Griffin and Bonnar met in the light heavyweight finals of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” In the live finale, the two slugged it out for three rounds. It was far from a technical affair, but there were big momentum swings, and neither fighter stopped coming forward trying to end the fight to win the guaranteed UFC contract.
The fight was so entertaining that the viewership on Spike TV, which broadcast the first season of “TUF” and 13 subsequent seasons, was reported to have risen in great leaps during the fight. UFC President Dana White always attributed that to people watching live at the start calling people to tell them they needed to check this thing out.
Griffin, of course, won a close unanimous decision. When Bruce Buffer announced him as the winner, Bonnar fell to his knees, exasperated. But soon after, White took the microphone and let the world know Bonnar was getting a six-figure contract with the UFC, as well.
On July 6, at the UFC Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay Convention Center before UFC 162 in Las Vegas, where Griffin and Bonnar now live, White will induct the two into the UFC Hall of Fame, where they’ll join Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, Charles “Mask” Lewis, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.
Griffin went on to beat Quinton Jackson for the light heavyweight title a little more than three years after his first fight with Bonnar. (The two rematched 18 months after their first fight, and Griffin again took a unanimous decision.) But at UFC 92, in his first defense, he lost the belt to Rashad Evans.
After that, Griffin went 3-2 with losses to Anderson Silva (in a non-title fight at 205 pounds) and Mauricio Rua, but a pair of decision wins over Tito Ortiz in their trilogy and a win over Rich Franklin. Griffin’s last eight fights in the UFC all came against champions or former champions.
Bonnar’s UFC career was a little more erratic. After his first fight with Griffin, he won three straight before dropping a majority decision to Evans. But after his second loss to Griffin, he tested positive for steroids and was fined and suspended. He returned to a two-fight win streak, but then dropped three straight to Jon Jones in the current champ’s second UFC fight, Mark Coleman and Krzysztof Soszynski.
He avenged the loss to Soszynski in a “Fight of the Night” performance at UFC 116 and then beat Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsburgy, dominating each on the scorecards. After nearly a year off, he stepped in on short notice to help save UFC 153 in a non-title fight against Silva in Brazil. He lost with a first-round TKO as a heavy underdog – but again tested positive for steroids after the bout, which effectively was his retirement fight.
In the above video, you can see the full fight between Griffin and Bonnar at the TUF 1 Finale in Las Vegas.
And for the latest on UFC 162, as well as the accompanying UFC Fan Expo, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.