Former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin returns to the cage after a layoff of more than 14 months Saturday at Mandalay Bay.
Not a minute too soon, he admits.
"Physically, a good break every now and then is great for your body. But it was too long. Too long without competing," Griffin said on a media conference call. "This is the most ring rust I've ever had. I'm not excited about it. I'm definitely going to fight more."
The return of the 31-year-old Las Vegan has been somewhat overshadowed on an Ultimate Fighting Championship 126 card headlined by a middleweight bout between champion Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, as well as a matchup of top light heavyweight prospects Jon Jones and Ryan Bader.
Griffin isn't easing back into competition, facing former middleweight champion Rich Franklin, who is coming off a knockout victory over Chuck Liddell. The winner will at least move back into position to be a title contender. The loser will fall back in a crowded division.
Griffin hasn't fought since Nov. 21, 2009, when he gained a split-decision victory over Tito Ortiz in UFC 106. Griffin missed last year with a shoulder injury.
He admits to enjoying the time off for a while, saying, "It's nice to get to do other things and not really worry about fighting. It's mentally refreshing."
But Griffin knows the long layoff has put him in unfamiliar territory, and he sounds uncertain about his readiness to compete on such a big stage.
"It's a weird feeling. I'm a little more nervous than usual," he said. "The big thing is going to be that first minute, and making that adjustment, getting back in there. This is the longest break I've had in fighting since 2000, so it's weird."
The card will air live on pay per view at 7 p.m., with at least two live preliminary bouts airing on Spike (Cable 29) at 6 p.m.
The event is sold out. A few tickets are available for the closed-circuit viewing party at the Islander Ballroom at Mandalay Bay. Tickets are available at the Mandalay Bay box office or Ticketmaster.
■ WALKER WINS AGAIN -- Former NFL star Herschel Walker had no trouble raising his mixed martial arts professional record to 2-0, beating overmatched Scott Carson on a Strikeforce card in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday night.
Walker, 48, knocked down Carson almost immediately and pounded on him for several minutes. As soon as Carson got back to his feet, Walker landed a nice combination to floor him again and stop the fight.
"I love MMA and I can't wait to fight again," Walker said. "When I do something, I do it with all my heart. I have to train more. I'm still a young MMA fighter. I'm happy with the win, but I still have a lot to learn."
Both champions on the card, welterweight Nick Diaz and middleweight Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, successfully defended their belts with submissions.
■ MMA XPLOSION -- "The Ultimate Fighter Season 8" competitor Vinny Magalhaes of Las Vegas raised his record to 4-1 since being released from the UFC, gaining a second-round submission of Robert Scott on the MMA Xplosion card Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Magalhaes is a decorated grappler, but said he needs to give up jiu-jitsu tournaments and his job as a jiu-jitsu instructor to focus on MMA full time if he wants to reach the sport's highest levels.
Only 26, Magalhaes believes he still has time to get back to the UFC, but acknowledges he must first repair a professional record that stands at 6-5.
"My record now is still pretty bad even though I've got two wins in a row. Nobody has to tell me that," Magalhaes said. "My first goal is to fix my record before I start to think about other things like signing with a big promotion again or fighting for titles."
Magalhaes wanted to take a fight in February, but was unable because of contractual obligations to M-1. He expects to have another bout in March and says he would fight every month if possible.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.