(Best frenemies forever.)
Through the majority of their parallel UFC careers, Stephan Bonnar has played second-banana to Forrest Griffin. The relationship started with Griffin’s career-launching win over Bonnar in their classic brawl at the first Ultimate Fighter finale in 2005; a rematch the following year resulted in the American Psycho going home with another decision loss and a steroid suspension. While Griffin was winning the UFC light-heavyweight title in 2008, Bonnar was on the sidelines due to injuries, and though Griffin occasionally ate a humiliating loss, Bonnar’s losses were even more embarrassing.
But lately, the two men have begun to shift trajectories. A not-quite-motivated Griffin suffered an ugly knockout against Mauricio Rua in Brazil last year, and is now booked in a relatively needless trilogy fight against Tito Ortiz in July. With Forrest in a holding pattern, Bonnar is now riding a three-fight win streak, with W’s over Krzysztof Soszynski, Igor Pokrajac, and Kyle Kingsbury. In other words, Griffin might be heading down the mountain, while Bonnar is somehow reaching another peak in his career — which makes it an ideal time for the two rivals to meet one last time, perhaps at the end of an Ultimate Fighter gig that would bring their lives full circle. At least, that’s how Bonnar sees it. Here’s what he told MMAJunkie Radio:
“Everyone out there please harass Dana White on Twitter to let me and Forrest coach the next season (of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’). If he does that, I can guarantee a barn-burning slugfest…I won’t go for any takedowns. I won’t block any punches. I’ll just be moving forward. I’m serious I would just go and slug it out and try to top our first one. What the hell do I have to lose? I want to give the fans a good one…I’ve had a couple nice technical wins now without much damage. But now I’m actually missing the damage…When you get into a couple of wars in a row, you’re like, ‘Screw this,’ but if we got to be coaches, I would be so thankful. I’d get hit a ton. I’ve ate plenty of his punches over the years.”
Promising to get hit in the face a lot is one of the most bizarre matchmaking pitches we’ve ever heard, and is perhaps evidence that Bonnar has already gotten hit in the face too many times as it is. But you can’t argue with the compelling symmetry of having the two light-heavyweight warriors coach against each other on the show that made them (and the UFC) famous seven years ago — and it seems like a perfect recipe to revive the interest in TUF.
Plus, let’s call a spade a spade, here: Griffin may be losing his edge in the cage, and Bonnar probably feels like he should pounce while he has some momentum, so he can balance out their rivalry. As Quinton Jackson demonstrated against Wanderlei Silva, the first two fights in a trilogy are just battles; the last fight truly decides the war.