Bonnar’s Career Comes Full Circle at Latest ‘TUF’ Finale

By Chris Nelson Dec 2, 2010
Stephan Bonnar has known both highs and lows during his tenure with the UFC, from the accolades he earned for his encounter with Forrest Griffin at the first “Ultimate Fighter” finale to a 2006 suspension for banned substances and a number of sidelining injuries.

Come Saturday night, the 33-year-old will take part in his first “TUF” closer since 2005 when he meets Igor Pokrajac in the co-main event of “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Bonnar hopes to recapture the same spirit -- if not the same outcome -- of the bout which launched his Octagon career.

“I’m like, you know, just hoping it's magical. I’m gonna try my best to make it a magical moment like I did last time. I got a good feeling that I’ll deliver a good performance,” Bonnar (Pictured) said during a Thursday conference call. “There’s a little something there that reminds me of 2005, when I was here fighting for the finale. We’re gonna deliver an entertaining fight, I’ll tell you that.”

Bonnar recently left his longtime home gym of Xtreme Couture to begin training with another Las Vegas team, One Kick’s Gym, headed by notorious striking trainer and bodyguard “One Kick” Nick Blomgren. Ascribing to a set of classic fight sport virtues, Bonnar says he abstains and gets plenty of rest prior to a fight, while going all-out in the gym.

“I only know how to fight one way, is to go for it, and training’s the same thing. I can’t not train hard. It’s just not in my nature,” said Bonnar. “I’m not so physically gifted that I can just go out there and rely on my athleticism.”

The Pokrajac fight will be Bonnar’s first action since July, when he snapped a dire three-fight losing skid against Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 116. After an inadvertent clash of heads cost him a doctor stoppage loss in their first meeting at UFC 110, the “American Psycho” struck back with a gutsy, bloody second-round TKO in his rematch with Soszynski. The win brought Bonnar’s UFC ledger to 6-6, a record which he feels some may misread.

“Look at my losses. It’s not like I went out there and got smashed,” Bonnar said. “It could be deceiving when you look at it. It’s not like I got submitted or knocked out six times. I was in all those fights.”

Despite his ups and downs, Bonnar has remained a Zuffa staple and fan favorite, continuing to compete in the UFC (where others may have been downsized after three consecutive losses) and even taking up a post as a color commentator for WEC events on Versus. It’s a clear sign of appreciation from the company for what Bonnar did in his first bout with Griffin, which helped cultivate a new generation of fans and propel MMA into the mainstream.

Given that famous fight and the four UFC Fight Nights on which he subsequently appeared, it’s safe to say that Bonnar’s fighting legacy is inextricably linked with the UFC’s trademark reality show and cable partner Spike TV. However, Bonnar says that’s not such a bad thing.

“It’s great to be a part of it. The first fight really helped the UFC and it also helped Spike, and they’ve given me a lot of opportunities for work since then,” Bonnar said, adding his appreciation at being tapped to host a Web-only “TUF 12” companion, “The Aftermath.”

“Spike’s giving me the opportunity to go on there every week and pick the guys’ brains and talk to the coaches. It’s not even like a job. It’s not even work to me. Hopefully they call me back for next season,” said Bonnar. “It’s just fun to be a part of it. I’m a fan anyway, so I’m always gonna watch the shows.”
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