LAS VEGAS -- Former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin is set to meet Tito Ortiz for a third time in the co-main event of UFC 148 on July 7. It’s expected to be the final fight of Ortiz’s career.
In a candid interview with ESPN.com, Griffin, who enjoyed the birth of his first child last year, spoke on how much time he has left in the sport, whether or not this recent string of losses for Ortiz has tarnished his career, and how comfortable he would be accepting a fight against a dangerous up-and-comer in the division.
ESPN.com: What was the experience of your last fight like, going to Brazil and trying to concentrate on Mauricio Rua while your wife was in labor back in Las Vegas?
Griffin: It really wasn’t that distracting. Maybe some time when I was down there and she was real good about censoring what she told me. The problem with that fight wasn’t anything other than Shogun hitting me in the head. That was more the problem with that fight than my wife being pregnant. It’s funny, I really didn’t think (about the loss). It was a s----- flight, I flew back with Dana (White). That’s a tough flight. You don’t want to sit next to your boss after you don’t do such a great job at work. After that, it was like, “we’re in the hospital.” So, I really didn’t think about it other than the flight home.
ESPN.com: Did you talk to Dana at all on the flight?
Griffin: I watched "Band of Brothers" with headphones on.
ESPN.com: Why do you think Tito Ortiz wanted you specifically for his last fight?
Griffin: I feel like, from his perspective, there’s a kid I beat once. I could have beat him a second time, but I was hurt. Let me put the stamp on him; let me show I can really beat this kid. I think too, you look at the guys he’s fought, I’m a guy with a big name who’s -- my name to talent ratio is pretty good, as is his. So, it’s a smart fight.
ESPN.com: Everybody is talking about his future, what’s yours? How much longer you plan on doing this?
Griffin: 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.
ESPN.com: Does it matter to you how you go out? Does it matter if you go out, losing five of your last six or whatever?
Griffin: Yeah. You’ve tarnished yourself. You should have quit while you were breaking even, which is kind of where I’m at now. Thing about Tito’s losses, if I’m fighting that level of guys, I don’t know if I’m losing six in a row but I might go 2-4. If you’re fighting great guys, you’re fighting great guys. It depends on the opponent.
ESPN.com: So, do you think Ortiz has hurt his legacy at all by sticking around too long or no?
Griffin: There’s a couple ways to look at that. From the perspective of a guy that’s in the sport and knows what it’s like to fight Rashad Evans -- he fought Rashad Evans at his peak -- and he fought (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira) at a bad time, I think he was kind of finding where he was at, so I think from the sport’s standpoint? No. From a fan’s standpoint? Yeah. Yeah, you look at the record and go, ‘Hey, he only had a .500 record.’
ESPN.com: Which is more important? The sport’s perception or the fan’s perception?
Griffin: For me personally, it’s guys who know what it’s like and to be respected by other guys in the sport more than the casual fan. It’s also important to me that the casual fan will cough out $20 for a t-shirt, too.
ESPN.com: Is there anything out there you still really want? A certain guy you point at and think, "I want him"?
Griffin: No, there really isn’t. Part of it is I’ve just been watching Tito. I’ve been in that mindset. I know a lot of guys I don’t want to fight. I really don’t watch that many fights. I watch the guys I’m interested in.
ESPN.com: What if the UFC set you up after this fight in a situation where it looks like you’re kind of that stepping stone for the younger up-and-comer? Would you accept that?
Griffin: 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.
ESPN.com: Are you really going to miss this when it’s over or do you consider it more a job, a career and when it’s over, it’s just over?
Griffin: It’s funny, that’s kind of a pertinent question. Right now, it feels like I’m one of those guys that will just go, ‘Yeah, work is work.’ But when you get away from it for a year you’re like, what do I do? What’s my identity? I’ve been doing this and this alone for eight years. I haven’t had a job in awhile. I don’t know how to write a resume. I forgot how to type, obviously if you read my tweets.