Mindset change buoys Griffin

It’s a night Forrest Griffin clearly would like to forget.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion was completely overmatched in a first-round knockout loss to Anderson Silva on Aug. 8 in Philadelphia.

After being knocked down for the third time in the first round, Griffin waved off the approaching Silva, and the referee stopped the bout.

Griffin rose to his feet and jogged out of the cage and back to the locker room.

“What am I going to do? There’s not a whole lot to take from that. It was a bad night. You didn’t show up. You didn’t want to fight. You didn’t want to be there. You looked like (expletive),” Griffin said. “You embarrassed yourself. (Expletive) happens. It’s like a lot of first dates I’ve been on.”

Griffin says he was frustrated with his performance.

“When I perform badly, it’s not even losing. I can handle losing; I’m not a winner,” he said. “But when you work for 13 or 14 weeks and go out there and look like (expletive), it’s kind of heartbreaking.”

It’s a moment UFC followers and Internet message board users have poked fun at since, but one that Griffin is trying to put behind him.

“I tried to forget about it and not think about it and kind of pretend it didn’t happen in my little imaginary world,” he said. “Then I came to terms with it. That (stuff) happens.

“I think the best analogy I’ve come up with is you’ve got to think like a defensive back. You get burned for an 80-yard touchdown, you’ve got to go out there like you’re still the man. Fast legs and a short memory.”

Griffin will return to action against Tito Ortiz in the main event of UFC 106 on Saturday at Mandalay Bay.

Griffin, a 30-year-old Las Vegas resident, hopes a new positive mindset has come out of the disappointing performance.

“I was definitely broken that day. No doubt about it. How do you come back from that? Do guys ever really come back?” he said. “Obviously, I think I can kind of change direction, my thought pattern, and enjoy the sport again. Maybe find my happiness again and enjoy going to work every day.”

The loss to Silva came on the heels of a knockout loss to Rashad Evans in December, a defeat that cost Griffin the light heavyweight belt.

He knows getting out of the slump won’t be an easy task.

“I want to get back to the joy of winning, which is hard to do when you’ve been knocked out badly in your last two fights,” Griffin said. “You start associating the octagon with how bad it feels to lose and forget how good it feels to win, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on again. Just stay positive and be happy.

“I was so stressed after the last fight. I was really disappointed. I thought I was a mentally stronger person.”

It’s all part of what Griffin said is a new persona.

“I used to be real laid back, but then it became real. I was, like, ‘Hey, I’m actually pretty good. I can actually do this. I owe it to myself and whoever cares to actually win fights and perform.’ It really builds the pressure up,” he said. “I’ve decided to change. I’m a different person now. I’m positive. I’m happy.”

The new attitude coincides with a major lifestyle change. Griffin was married in September. He credits his wife, Jaime, with much of his newfound calmness and says he had plenty of time to think about it as they drove to Savannah, Ga., and back for the wedding.

He even has changed his stance on his desire to be a role model, which he has said he wanted no part of in the past.

“I’ve changed on that completely, 360 degrees. I think I’m a good person. I cuss a lot, but I’m a really good person,” he said. “I think I want to be a role model, assuming that you want your kids to cuss a lot.”

Griffin will get a chance to unveil his new image against Ortiz, to whom he lost a controversial split decision in April 2008.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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