0129GriffinListen to former UFC champion Forrest Griffin talk about his rise to the top of mixed martial arts.
Edge MMA seminar
When: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Edge MMA, 4619 Smithson Blvd., Oakwood
Web site: www.edgemma.net
He went from nearly retired to reality super star; a virtual unknown to a champion. And now, Ultimate Fighting Championship star Forrest Griffin is going back to his roots.
After starting his mixed martial arts training nearly a decade ago at HardCore Gym in Athens, the former light heavyweight champion is returning to Georgia on Saturday to instruct a seminar at Edge AMA in Oakwood.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people and I’ve stolen stuff from all of them,” Griffin said Wednesday from his Las Vegas home. “I’m gonna try and give a little bit back.”
Focusing on jujitsu, the 29-year-old Griffin will teach moves like cross-side escapes and submissions from the top.
“In jujitsu, we can instill some things and then we can go and everybody should get a good workout in.”
While the people in attendance won’t be able to spar with Griffin, they will get a chance to learn techniques from an established UFC star.
“He’s not known for it, but he’s a very good technical instructor,” said Edge AMA co-owner John Grantham, a personal friend of Griffin. “Being around champions is motivational.”
But Griffin, who stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, wasn’t always a champion.
After battling injuries in the early stages of his career, he contemplated retirement in 2005. He got a political science degree from the University of Georgia and started working in the Richmond County Sherriff’s Office. Then he got a phone call that would eventually change his life.
“The call came out of the blue,” Griffin said of being asked to be on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter reality show. “Of course you’d do it now, but it didn’t sound good to me then. I’d never seen a reality show other than the Real World.”
After much trepidation, and “convincing” by the show’s producers, Griffin took a chance and ended up defeating Stephan Bonnar in the show’s finale to earn a UFC contract.
“They didn’t even know if it would make it on TV,” said Griffin, who has a career record of 16-5. “But obviously it worked out pretty well for me.”
It’s with that story of his ascent to the top of the MMA world, that will motivate the people at his seminar Saturday.
“They’ll see a guy they can relate to and say, ‘He’s where I am and now he’s on top of the world,’” Grantham said. “They’ll realize how hard he pushes himself and how hard they have to push themselves.”
One of the hardest times Griffin pushed himself was during the July 2008 title match with Quinton Jackson. With an array of punches and productive ground moves, Griffin took control of the fight and won by unanimous decision.
“I knew I did a lot of things right, but I wasn’t sure I was able to pull it out,” Griffin said. “My cornerman told me, ‘If you don’t get knocked out this round, you’ll win.’”
The win put the otherwise quiet Griffin in the limelight, a place where he didn’t feel comfortable.
“The belt doesn’t look like much but it’s heavy,” said Griffin, who lost the title in December to Rashad Evans. “It comes with a lot of obligations and a lot of pressure, and you’re wearing a target on your back.
“I didn’t really like it,” he added. “I don’t have a lot of bravado, I don’t like to differentiate myself too much, and I generally don’t like to put a target on myself. I figured that out a little late.”
Griffin’s loss to Evans not only cost him the title, but he broke his hand during the match which will sideline him until June or July.
“I’ll have to work my way back up,” he said of a possible rematch with Evans. “That’s the way it should be, and I will do it.”
During his time off, Griffin will spend time on techniques that don’t fully involve his hand. He’ll also work to help promote the growing sport of mixed martial arts, a sport that despite critics, has become one of the most popular in the world.
“We were watching the sport back in 2000 and we couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t in love with it,” Griffin said. “I thought it was the most essential kind of combat.
“In basketball or football whenever they get (angry), they throw down and start fighting,” he added. “So why not just have fighting and have a couple of rules to make it relatively safe, as safe as it’s gonna be, and make that a sport itself and forget all the other complications.”
The sport of fighting — specifically mixed martial arts — has grown so much that it’s being taught in gyms nationwide. The UFC is even getting involved with instruction, as the league announced earlier this week that it will be opening a chain of gyms to teach prospective fighters.
“It’s not just one particular art,” said Grantham, who has doctors, FBI personnel and police officers in his MMA classes. “You need to be good with your hands, feet, everything. Never before have people been integrating this many styles.”
Nine years ago, Griffin started learning those styles. Since then he has reached the apex of the mixed martial arts world as a UFC champion, and Saturday he hopes to reach some future fighters.
“It’s a good opportunity to take what I learned from a lot of good people and bring it back home,” he said. “It should be fun.”