BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Watching Tyson Griffin fight is like watching the bareback event in rodeo: When the bell rings, he’s going to shoot out of his corner in a barely controlled fury.
Griffin’s game is full of passion and fire, which makes it a bit of a surprise to discover how mellow he is.
The 23-year-old, who recently moved to Las Vegas from Sacramento, Calif., so he could train with UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, is building a reputation as one of the game’s best.
Just don’t expect him to be the one to point it out.
“My job is to fight,” said Griffin, who is 8-1 but is coming off a Feb. 3 loss to Frank Edgar at UFC 67 in Las Vegas. “How well I do it, that’s up to the fans or the (media) to decide. All I do is fight.” They’ll get a chance to judge on Saturday when he takes on promising Clay Guida in a three-round lightweight bout at UFC 72 at Odyssey Arena.
He’s a natural athlete who played baseball (catcher and third baseman), hockey (goalie), football (running back) and wrestled when he was young. He was good enough as a hockey player that he considered moving to New England to further his development.
He’s also good enough of a mixed martial artist that he’s the only man with a victory over WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, whom WEC matchmaker Scott Adams regards as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Griffin scored a third-round knockout of Faber on Sept. 10, 2005. Faber has said publicly that he wasn’t himself after the opening seconds of the bout when he rammed his head into the cage and opened a large wound on his scalp.
That bothers Griffin, who believes he hasn’t received credit for a significant victory.
“He’s really made a lot of excuses, but I have the DVD and everyone who I’ve shown it to, after they’ve heard his side of the story first, they come out and have a different opinion,” Griffin said. “What really changed that fight was me dropping him at the end of the first round. I dropped him with an uppercut with about 30 seconds to go in the round and I almost finished him there.
“I remember (referee) Herb Dean telling Urijah to protect himself. He ended up rolling over and trapping one of my hands so I couldn’t hit him as much. That uppercut is actually what probably affected him the most. It was a good fight, but I think I won the first two rounds and I wound up knocking him out in the third.”
Griffin would like the rematch to prove that the first victory was no fluke, but he and his manager, Tom Call, don’t expect it any time soon. Griffin said it’s incumbent upon Faber, as the loser, to ask for the bout.
“You haven’t heard him say a thing, have you?” Griffin said.
Call said he phoned Faber’s manager to discuss a rematch. “It was made pretty clear that that would not be happening,” Call said.
Many expected Griffin would score another spectacular knockout in his match against Edgar, but he knew it would be much more difficult than that. Edgar was an All-American wrestler in 2004 at Clarion University and had a more extensive wrestling background than Griffin.
They put on what has been, thus far, one of the top MMA matches of the year. But Edgar managed to survive a late Griffin submission attempt and pulled out a unanimous decision.
“The thing that surprised me about him I guess was that his hands were a lot better than I thought they might be,” he said. “He knew how to box pretty well. He had more success as a wrestler than I did and he wrestled at a higher level, so I knew he would be a tough match.
“I hadn’t seen any tape of him, but I knew what to expect. But it’s not like I was blown out or anything. It was a pretty good fight right down until the end.”
Guida is also a wrestler who is improving as a striker. Going in, it sounds in many ways similar to the fight with Edgar.
Griffin wouldn’t mind it being that type of back-and-forth, high-energy bout, except with a different outcome. He’s not bothered by the loss to Edgar and is going into the fight with Guida with a clear mind.
“We’ll get after it hard, I’m pretty sure,” Griffin said. “I was over the loss the night it happened. That happens in this sport and it happens to everyone. I didn’t get knocked out or submitted, so there’s no mental frustration there.
“My attitude has always been that the most important fight is the one I’m fighting. I think you have to have that attitude. I’m expecting to perform at my peak.”