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UFC 126:

Forrest Griffin anxious to get back in the octagon after shoulder injury

Griffin faces friend and someone he used to look up to in Rich Franklin

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Justin M. Bowen

Forrest Griffin fields questions from the media at Mandalay Bay Wednesday, February 2, 2011 during the UFC 126 Press conference.

UFC 126 Press Conference

Forrest Griffin fields questions from the media at Mandalay Bay Wednesday, February 2, 2011 during the UFC 126 Press conference. Launch slideshow »

Fireside Chat With Dana White: UFC 126

UFC President Dana White speaks about a number of topics with media members at Wednesday's press conference. White discusses the details of a superfight between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, which he says should happen if both win their next contest.

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No matter how intense Forrest Griffin looks Saturday night when he enters the octagon at UFC 126, he’ll be a nervous wreck on the inside.

Griffin is not hiding his anxiety surrounding his first fight since beating Tito Ortiz at UFC 106 in November 2009.

“You’re like that if you haven’t done something in a year,” Griffin said. “Think of the time you went without sex for a year. You were nervous to get back out there."

Griffin, the Las Vegas-based former light heavyweight champion, takes on Rich Franklin in a co-headlining bout at UFC’s annual Super Bowl weekend card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. It’s his first fight back since undergoing shoulder surgery, which forced him to not do any mixed martial arts training for more than three months.

Looking back now, Griffin can hardly believe he got through it. Although he spent some time hiking and honeymooning, he was bored.

“I didn’t do any horseback riding,” Griffin said. “I don’t know if that’s really up my alley, but just hiking and a lot of physical stuff that wasn’t fight-related.”

“You get away from something long enough, you miss it. You get hungry for it. That’s a positive.”

It was the longest break in Griffin’s career since 2000. He tried not to rush back to the gym, taking an extra month to recover after he returned on the original timetable and still felt pain.

Griffin was surprised by how fast he got back into his routine at Xtreme Couture once he felt 100 percent.

“It turned into work amazingly quickly,” Griffin said. “I was so excited to get there and then I was like, ‘(expletive), this hurts.’ I forgot all the downsides to this.”

An upside is coming back to a bout against Franklin. It’s a matchup fans have asked about and drooled over for years because of the two fighters’ similar all-out-brawl style.

Griffin said he had long-respected Franklin, even before he became a household name in MMA by capturing the UFC middleweight championship in 2005. Griffin still remembers meeting Franklin for the first time at a Denver fight card in 2003, two years before Griffin’s breakthrough as “The Ultimate Fighter” season 1 champion.

“He was just one of those guys where I looked at his career as a model of my own,” Griffin said. “I didn’t have much going on and he had already won some fights in the UFC — just the kind of guy I could pattern myself after.”

Griffin continued to speak with Franklin when the two found themselves at the same UFC events. Their camaraderie has been on display in the lead-up to the bout.

Griffin said the two discussed the loser getting a tattoo of the winner’s choice, but didn’t ultimately come to an agreement. At Wednesday’s press conference, Griffin passed a question off to Franklin and joked “no pressure.” The two laughed as they approached each other for their stare down fight photo and exchanged handshakes afterward.

“I would consider him a friend,” Franklin said. “I’d say that we have the kind of relationship where after the fight it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. You could see the two of us possibly hanging out together or grabbing a drink.”

Franklin recently endured an injury hiatus of his own. He broke his arm early in his last fight but still managed to pull off a knockout of UFC legend Chuck Liddell who retired after the defeat.

Franklin had surgery and hasn’t fought in six months, making him sympathetic of Griffin’s situation. But he said he didn’t anticipate the layoff having a negative effect and thought both fighters would be back on top of their games.

“I would imagine I’m probably going to after-party at the hospital ER,” Franklin said, “a few stitches or something like that — win or lose.”

Griffin and Franklin both have notorious reputations for getting into bloody slugfests. They’re expecting nothing less at UFC 126 as Griffin likened the matchup to a cake that he hopes turns out right because “it has all the right ingredients.”

To Griffin, it sounds a lot better than hiking.

“It’s nice to get to do other things and not worry about fighting,” Griffin said. “It’s mentally refreshing but, physically, a good break every now and again is great for your body. But it was too long without competing.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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