News came Monday that Forrest Griffin, one of the most popular champions in UFC history, is planning an Octagon return some time in late 2013 following an operation to repair his injured knee.
"Dr said my knee is doing great ill be able to go in 6-7 months," Griffin tweeted on Monday, according to MMAJunkie.com. "We must have different Definitions of the word great."
The touchstones of Griffin's career have been worn smooth by millions of hands-on inspections. Griffin (19-7, 10-5 UFC) is the former UFC light heavyweight champion, though he never successfully defended the belt. He is the better half of the legendary Griffin-Stephan Bonnar war that made The Ultimate Fighter appointment television. He is the often hilarious, often head-scratching personality who captured pieces of even the most peripheral MMA demographics.
As of late, though, Griffin's story has grown more muddled. Now 33 and with a couple of best-selling books under his belt, Griffin is 3-3 in his last six contests. He has fought only four times in the past three years. Griffin's physical and mental fighting talents—the toughness, the energy, the stamina—have eroded. This knee injury, which forced the UFC to cancel Griffin's Dec. 29 bout with Chael Sonnen (and later Phil Davis after Sonnen was tapped to coach TUF), is just the latest setback.
So what does the fight game have in store for a healthy and presumably rested Forrest Griffin? On the one hand, it would be sad to see a proud and popular ex-champion relegated to the novelty circuit. On the other hand, Griffin has openly said he no longer enjoys fighting and doesn't see himself improving.
Until Griffin and the UFC announce his next move, it's all speculation. So here's mine. Griffin's return will draw interest regardless of the opponent. A Griffin win would advance that interest. At the same time, some kind of celebrity matchup doesn't make sense, especially now that a trilogy fight with the retired Bonnar is no longer in the cards. Neither does pitting him against a stud like Davis who could end Griffin's comeback in one swift and embarrassing stroke.
So I say give Griffin an exciting but presumably beatable foil. Let's see how much he has left. Let's see what he does before, during and after the fight. Let's give him a good litmus test before we bank on him to carry a card (any card).
There are no tomato cans in the UFC, and thus no such thing as a charity match. How about a brawler like Fabio Maldonado? How about kickboxer Cyrille Diabate? How about a banger like Joey Beltran, who comes off his drug suspension just as Griffin is set to return?
I'd watch Griffin fight any of those guys. Then again, I'd probably watch him watch paint dry. I'm not alone in that, though. And if Forrest can build up one last head of steam, I'll have more company by the hour.