According to the UFC, Bonner died of heart complications while on the job.
Bonner and Griffin were inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2013. The “Ultimate Fighter” reality series, and that fight in particular, was crucial to landing and keeping the UFC on cable.
The Griffin vs. Bonner drama is about both men digging deep into a bloody brawl, a sport that allows them to form their own identities unlike other martial arts such as boxing. Griffin won the fight by unanimous decision and earned a six-figure UFC contract. However, the fight was so good that UFC president Dana White also gave Bonner a contract.
“Stephan Bonner was one of the most important fighters I’ve ever fought in the Octagon,” White told UFC.com on Saturday. “His fight with Forrest Griffin will forever change the sport. He will never be forgotten.The fans loved him, they had a relationship with him, he always gave his best.He will be missed.”
Bonner, who hails from Hammond, Indiana, has lived in Las Vegas for many years but hasn’t fought in MMA since 2014 when he fought Tito Ortiz under the Bellator banner. Bonner’s last appearance in the UFC was in 2012, when the greatest ever Anderson he lost to Silva. Prior to that match, Bonner had won three in a row.
After losing to Griffin in “The Ultimate Fighter” final, Bonner went on a three-game winning streak before also falling to future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans. They competed in a rematch of the same fight, with Griffin winning again by unanimous decision. Griffin also won the UFC Light Heavyweight belt.
During his career, Bonner faced seven future or former UFC champions: Griffin, Ortiz, Silva, Evans, Jon Jones, Yoshito Machida and Mark Coleman. Bonner named his eldest son Griffin after his most important rival who became a close friend.
Bonner, who finished his career with a 15-9 record, spent many years doing color commentary for WEC promotions and worked several times as an MMA analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports.
Following his career in MMA, Bonner took up professional wrestling, making multiple appearances on Impact Wrestling in 2019.