Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar Inducted Into the UFC Hall of Fame
Just over eight years ago, the course of the UFC took a dramatic turn for the better when the finale of the first-ever The Ultimate Fighter took place in Las Vegas.
The reality show that aired on Spike TV in 2005 was almost a last shot for the promotion. The UFC had hemorrhaged money for months following its purchase by the Fertitta brothers along with family friend and business partner Dana White.
Then, in one of the last fights of the night, something magical happened.
The two finalists from The Ultimate Fighter's inaugural light heavyweight tournament battled it out for 15 minutes in one of the most historic bouts in fight history.
They did, however, manage to slug it out in a back-and-forth war for three rounds that was so enthralling that the viewership for the fight grew as each minute passed.
On Saturday, UFC president Dana White officially inducted both Griffin and Bonnar into the UFC Hall of Fame for their fight that helped keep the company alive.
"As far as this company goes for sure, but as far as this sport goes—this was the most important fight in the history of this company," White said on Saturday. "At the time when this fight happened, you know where we were back then, and what was happening with the sport. We were $44 million dollars in the hole in this business.
"During six minutes of that fight, 12 million people tuned in. You know how crazy that is? You know what insane numbers those are? There has never been a more important fight in the history of the UFC. There has never been a more important fight than maybe UFC 1 in the history of mixed martial arts."
Griffin and Bonnar's fight is still regarded as one of the greatest in MMA history, and in terms of importance to the sport's survival, it may sit alone as the biggest ever.
Following that fight, their careers took different trajectories.
Griffin went on to win the UFC light heavyweight title in 2008 from Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and while he never successfully defended the belt, it was still a crowning achievement for the former TUF 1 winner.
Bonnar never achieved that level of success in the UFC. While he was by no means a bad fighter, he never got close to a title shot or even contention. It's also impossible to overlook that he was busted twice for steroid use during his UFC career.
Still, White believes that the two gladiators who stepped into the Octagon that night in 2005 deserve a special place in the UFC Hall of Fame.
Both Griffin and Bonnar are now retired from active competition.
"It's not like a hero profession even though sometimes it's treated as one. It's not being a soldier on foreign soil or being a paramedic or a firefighter, but sometimes on special moments it feels like that," Griffin said during the induction when looking back as his career as a fighter. "It's the biggest thing I've ever been a part of."
Bonnar hasn't been in White's good graces since testing positive for banned substances following his fight against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 153 last year. White didn't even speak to Bonnar much, if at all, leading up to the induction ceremony on Saturday.
Still, Bonnar was an integral part of UFC history, and so his place is now cemented as a Hall of Famer.
"As painful as it was to lose that fight, I was so happy for him. He's a great guy," Bonnar said about Griffin. "I just want to end with a quote, this one from Calvin Coolidge—nothing in the world could take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full with educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race."
Griffin and Bonnar are the 10th and 11th fighters inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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