The only thing scarier than meeting up with Forrest Griffin in the octagon? Sticking a microphone or camera in his face in the days leading up to a big fight. See, the former UFC light heavyweight champion has a reputation for being moody.
Sure enough, his temperamental personality was on full display when we recently caught up with the Las Vegas-based fighter before his co-main event bout against Maurício “Shogun” Rua at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 27. At times, Griffin was engaging and funny, like when the two-time New York Times best-selling author [including 2010’s Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down: A Survival Guide to the Apocalypse] discussed how he settled on the topic for his third book (see Question 5).
And then, out of nowhere, Griffin would flip from playful to surly, like when he snapped at a photographer who attempted to give Griffin instructions on the pose he was looking for. “Just take the fuckin’ pictures, OK?”
Like him or not, you have to respect the former Augusta, Ga., law enforcement officer for one thing: He doesn’t pull any punches—in or out of the octagon.
You’ve made it quite clear in the past that you don’t like to compete away from Las Vegas. What’s the most frustrating aspect of fights away from home?
Dude, I haven’t even fucking packed yet. I don’t know how to pack. Everything is frustrating, bro. The travel. I get jet-lagged. I’m like fruit, man, I don’t travel well. I was meant to be grown and eaten locally.
Even though you’ve competed in Brazil before, it’s got to be kind of fun to be part of the UFC’s first show there in 13 years?
Guys like me who have been following it for 10 years have to think that MMA is just huge down there. But it’s really not any bigger than it is here. It’s the birthplace of MMA, they started the UFC, but it actually had a bad rep. The UFC is just now getting rid of that and showing them ‘Hey look these are professional athletes.’ So professional that sometimes the fights are just boring.
You had an iconic celebratory moment after you beat Shogun the first time. How does that win compare with your victory over Stephan Bonnar in The Ultimate Fighter or winning the light heavyweight title?
It’s up there. That fight, the way it happened, it definitely propelled me to my title shot.
What do you expect from “Shogun” this time around, especially since he’s coming off arguably the worst loss of his career?
He looks like a dude who is going to be motivated. That and the fact I’ve beaten him before, I think he’s gonna be scary.
How much do you think you’ve evolved since that fight?
I haven’t gotten that much better. I peaked around 2009. For me now, it’s just about staying healthy and not getting worse. I think he has gotten better to where he was as good as he was in PRIDE. He’s had some good performances against [Lyoto] Machida, and Chuck [Liddell]. He looked fluid, looked healthy. Hopefully he won’t be that healthy.
You’ve mentioned fighting for maybe three more years or something like eight more fights. What do you still want to accomplish in the sport?
I want to make more money [laughs]. One day if I’m fortunate enough I’m gonna be an old fucking crippled man walking through Wal-Mart, and I don’t want to ever walk away and regret not doing one more fight. I want to know I did what I did and it’s done. I gave it everything and that was it. You don’t want to ever think like Michael Jordan that I had one more fucking season in me, one more game, one more fight. You see a lot of pro athletes like that.
I think I have something that a lot of those guys don’t have in that I had a life and a career before fighting. And I’ll be able to have a career and a life afterward.
Doing what? Would you ever return to law enforcement?
Man, I don’t know if I have the discipline to do law enforcement anymore. I really wouldn’t mind getting some kind of position with Three Square [a Southern Nevada-based food bank] or something like that. If I can make enough money doing this fighting stuff I’d like to do something charitable and try to help. My whole life I saw all those fucking famous Hollywood [assholes], and I thought they were just trying to buy public gratitude. But then I realized if you are a halfway decent person when your mouth is fed, you look around to try to help others. I’m just glad I got to be in a position in life where my needs are met, and now I want to help those around me and my community.
You’ve authored two successful books and are working on a third. What’s this one about?
The third one is a degenerate’s guide to life, by degenerates and for degenerates. Erich [Krauss, Griffin’s co-author for his first two books] is writing it, with me talking to him. Basically what I’ve done, because I’m a genius, is I’ve gone to the bookstore and looked at every self-help book there is. All of them—love-making, relationships, finance, health and fitness … and what I do is I read the book jackets and sometimes the table of contents, and then from there I decide what the book is about and what I need to tell you on that subject. I’m not actually stealing from them because I never read any of these books.
But if I lose my phone again … [the third book] won’t come out. I don’t back up my phone; I should probably do that before I go to Brazil. One more fucking thing I got to do before I go to Brazil.
How did you become a New York Times best-selling author?
Everybody loves to tell a story and have people listen. How ingratiating to the ego is it to have people pay money to hear your thoughts? It’s ridiculous. I’ll write books until the last one sells like eight fucking copies.
In addition to writing books, you’re also on Twitter. Do you like it?
I have fun on Twitter. I don’t think sarcasm [translates] as well over Twitter, but I think that sometimes makes it funnier for me. There are some evil people on Twitter. I haven’t decided if I’m one of them yet.
You have a life-changing moment coming up with the birth of your first child. How excited are you?
It’s one of the bigger things in my life, I don’t know just how big yet. It’s coming up any day now, I just pray that it doesn’t work out where I’m in Brazil for the birth of my first child. Sometimes for all the money I’ve made and notoriety it’s good to have to make sacrifices like this. But this is fucking stressful. My wife has never flown on a plane without me. I’m a good coach, you want me there for that baby. This is virgin territory for both of us.
Do you feel being married and having a child has made you more mature?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be mature, but … I have different needs and wants now. Vegas quits shining pretty quick once you live here. When you get older, man, you get in your 30s, kids are really a natural fit. Obviously there are 7 billion people out there, so there’s something programmed in us to love children—even though they’re fucking annoying, cryin’, stinkin’. We’re genetically programmed to love them.
The MMA community suffered a big loss recently with the death of Shawn Tompkins. Do you have a favorite memory with him?
I have a ton of memories with him, and I had some of my best workouts with Shawn. He was always an awesome guy, a good guy, very helpful. I feel bad for his wife [Emilie Stout] and guys like Sam [Stout] and Mark [Hominick], who he brought out to Vegas and really mentored.