Forrest Griffin began a quick rise in mixed martial arts in 2004, one that saw him go from a career in Georgia law enforcement to national fight celebrity.
But Griffin's path with the Ultimate Fighting Championship nearly finished before it began. He recalls sitting in an Atlanta airport terminal debating whether to keep his life status quo or fly to Las Vegas as a late replacement for the inaugural cast of "The Ultimate Fighter."
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"I didn't know what I was getting into," Griffin said. "I called the producer, and I ended up talking with (UFC president Dana White). Basically I said, 'Convince me to do this.' Then I decided I'd rather regret the decision I make rather than the one I don't."
A few months later, Griffin fought in one of the most famous bouts in MMA history, defeating Stephan Bonnar in the TUF finale. The fight earned both combatants a position in the UFC and helped launch the promotion to its current heights.
Both Griffin and Bonnar will be inducted into the UFC's Hall of Fame on July 6 before UFC 162 in Las Vegas.
Being inducted with Bonnar "seems pretty fitting," Griffin said. "It works for me. I like the guy. It'd be different if we didn't like each other, but we're friends, so it's pretty cool."
Griffin, who finished with a 19-7 record, including a victory in his last fight against Tito Ortiz a year ago, decided now is the right time to retire. He has battled shoulder and knee injuries in recent years and he says he would need at least nine months to recover from his latest knee injury.
"I had some pretty substantial injuries," he said. "Now, we're looking at another year away from fighting. I've pulled out of three fights in the last three years. ... If you can't make a commitment to be ready and fight, you should probably quit."
Griffin, who turns 34 next month, will segue into a "dream" position with the UFC, operating as one of the promotion's charitable arms.
"The UFC actually does a lot of charity stuff, but they don't talk about it that much. I'm here to actually bring some presence and awareness to all the things the UFC does charity-wise," he said.
"It's a dream job. I always wanted to be a little better. I always wanted to work in charitable things, community outreach, etc. When you get the opportunity to give away somebody else's money to make somebody else's life a little better. That's pretty cool, actually."