5. Forrest Griffin
It may seem too early to discuss Griffin as part of the UFC’s Hall-of-Fame, but his is among the greatest impacts on MMA. To a great number of MMA fans today, Griffin is the face of the sport. Though overshadowed while on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter by the likes of Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, and Bobby Southworth, Griffin surpassed each during the season’s final match against Stephan Bonnar. Not only is the fight considered to be the greatest of all time by UFC president Dana White, but it was the most important fight in the history of the company and the sport as a whole. While Griffin could not have put on the performance he did without Bonnar as his counterpart, there’s no disputing that their battle and Griffin’s victory set into motion a series of events that has led to the popularity enjoyed by the UFC today. Had the fight gone another way, the UFC may have ceased to exist. His effect on the modern era of the UFC is not unlike that of Royce Gracie’s during the early days of the UFC.
Unlike Bonnar, Griffin did not peak at the TUF finale. Griffin went on to headline numerous events and become a part of other great fights against the likes of Tito Ortiz, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Griffin and Jackson put on a performance that led many to proclaim it the best fight of 2008 in a match where Griffin became the first winner of a season of The Ultimate Fighter to win a UFC championship.
Though Griffin has shown an unfortunate immaturity following some of his losses, his place in modern day MMA is secure. Griffin has gone from a reality show contestant to reality show winner, from reality show winner to a fan favorite, from a fan favorite to one of the UFC’s biggest stars, and from a star to a former champion and perennial contender.