Although the UFC may be a fixture in mainstream society today, it has not always been that way. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the biggest MMA promotion in the world today, but 13 years ago, the UFC was still very much a niche product with a niche audience. Forrest Griffin‘s iconic, unanimous decision over Stephan Bonnar in the first season finale of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) not only moved the needle, it changed the narrative on the sport’s popularity – for good.
These two fighters turned this contest into an absolute barnburner from start to finish. Bonnar and Griffin stood toe-to-toe for three rounds trading punches, kicks, and elbows in both neutral and clinch positions with each man finding their mark many-a-times.
Bonnar was crisp with a jab to Griffin’s face that cut him so bad the fight was stopped shortly for a doctor’s evaluation. Griffin was cleared to continue, and went right back to turning the octagon into a bar fight. After three rounds, both men were battered and bloodied.
Griffin was able to outwrestle Bonnar in tight spaces and landed timely knees on his was to win by unanimous decision. As a winning purse, Griffin earned his first six-figure UFC contract. Bonnar put on such a performance that UFC President Dana White also offered him a UFC contract.
Now, this slobberknocker may not sit at the top of greatest fight of all time list, you can, however, argue that this was the most influential fight of all time. The bloody war launched the UFC into the mainstream spotlight. As noted in the video from FS1 above, it’s live TV broadcast saw viewership boom round by round. The increased viewership created an immediate avenue for the UFC to explode with revenue opportunities which included a renewed Spike TV deal for TUF, clothing lines and training gear, as well as a variety of other endorsements and sponsorships.
Griffin went on to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion after defeating Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. He lost by TKO to Rashad Evans in his lone title defense, however, Griffin’s 19-7 career boasted victories over some of the who’s who of yesteryear including Chael Sonnen, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rich Franklin, and Tito Ortiz.
Bonnar’s most notable victory in his 15-9 career came against Keith Jardine.
-Jordan Kurtz AKA Kurtzy F is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery.