Griffin and the failed Philly experiment

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
12:19
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Anderson Silva and Forrest GriffinAP Photo/H. Rumph JrFor a fighter who always looks a little off, Griffin looked particularly more off against Silva.
Forrest Griffin makes more bizarre news than (perhaps) anybody in MMA. When he’s not insensitively tweeting to tone-deaf followers, he’s bolting the cage after decisioning Tito Ortiz, and then stealing Ortiz’s final appearance thunder by doing Joe Rogan impersonations.

Griffin is great at improv gone bad. He’s awkward personified.

And when Griffin’s not fielding Dana White’s advice to retire, he’s confessing on the MMA Hour to taking Xanax to help him fall into a black dreamless sleep before big fights.

Is it news? It’s something. With Griffin, it’s always something. Griffin has made a crazy career on something.

In this case, he took Xanax to soothe the nerves before the Anderson Silva bout in Philadelphia, which any sane person can rationalize. Yet, it was a fight that remains one of the most lopsided main events in UFC history. He was suspended by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission for 30 days for failing the UFC 101 drug test, a little fact that was concealed up until Monday when he told Ariel Helwani the reason why.

Added “humiliation” was his reason for remaining silent. The old can of worms.

But then why bring it up at all at this point? Is it to get something off his chest? Could this, by some leap of connective logic, be meant to explain what happened in the cage that night? Is it haunting Griffin, as many people suspect? Is talking about it therapeutic? Or is he on to our power of association, offering it up as a possible explanation to his performance?

No, partially and possibly maybe. As only he can do, Griffin is the first to turn the semi-serious into a dark laugh.

“Just to be clear I was not on drugs for the Silva fight I simply appeared to be stoned,” he wrote on his Twitter. And it’s true. Xanax does not have 20-plus-hour staying power. Grogginess on fight night would have had to be a mere coincidence.

But it’s just like the juxtaposing Griffin to split headlines.

On the same day that the Xanax stuff is brought up, Stephan Bonnar -- who appears in every chapter of the Griffin lore -- says he might name his first-born son Griffin. A griffin is an eagle-beaked lion/beast hybrid in mythological settings. But Griffin Bonnar? That beats a T-shirt commemoration on the Punch Buddies line -- that’s a name that defines the success of the UFC.

Without that singular fight, maybe I’m not typing about MMA right now. Maybe this whole thing’s still a basement industry. Maybe we’re not wondering what’s going through Griffin’s head, or reading his “Be Ready When the S--- Goes Down: A Survival to the Apocalypse” to find out.

Griffin will always be linked to the coming-of-age moment for the UFC for his 2005 fight with Bonnar. And for that reason, plus his improbable moment with the light heavyweight belt (and upsetting Mauricio Rua against all odds [and being a converted policeman from Georgia]), he’s news onto himself. For all his great moments, he’s put in some stinkers (versus Rua II, Silva, Keith Jardine).

But it’s more than just the fighting thing, and we know it. There is always something unnerving going on with Griffin. His motives are never clear. Are there motives at all? Or are there just impulses that he can’t help acting on? He is self-deprecating, but he doesn’t necessarily invite you to deprecate along with him. In fact, he’s unique in that you can’t tell if he’s smiling because he sees something funny, or out of disdain toward what he’s looking at.

The media that have covered him know all about it, and they are often the thing he’s looking at.

Love him or hate him, that’s Forrest. And that he kept the Xanax thing a secret until now is Forrest, too. It’s not really a big deal. But it’s sort of a big deal. And that’s sort of Forrest Griffin.

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